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Breaking Down the HIMSS Call to Action: Guidelines for Achieving Seamless and Secure Electronic Health Information Exchange

Abby Nieten
October 19, 2017
Min Read

The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) recently issued a call to action for the nation’s health sector. Aimed at encouraging health policy changes, the document—titled "Achieve Nationwide, Ubiquitous, Secure Electronic Exchange of Health Information"—calls for interoperability with a focus on accessible and secure data exchange. What spurred this call to action? HIMSS states it best here: “Patients’ lives, the health and security of our nation’s citizens, and the health of the U.S. economy are—in part —reliant on ensuring the right people have the right access to the right health information at the right time. While we have made great strides over the past generation, seamless, secure, nationwide interoperable health information exchange continues to elude us.”To achieve interoperable health information exchange, HIMSS is calling on the health IT community (including the Department of Health and Human Services) to take the following actions:

  1. Demand integration between the interoperability approaches and trusted exchange frameworks for the public good.
  2. Educate the community to appropriately implement existing and emerging standards, data formats, and use cases to ensure a comprehensive, integrated approach to care.
  3. Ensure stakeholder participation from across the care continuum, including patients and caregivers.
  4. Identify the “minimum necessary” business rules for trusted exchange to enhance care coordination.
  5. Standardize and adopt identity management approaches.
  6. Improve usability for data use to support direct care and research.

Let’s briefly discuss each of these points:

1. Demand Integration

HIMSS believes healthcare interoperability approaches and trusted exchanged frameworks must be integrated for better collaboration and improved data access. This means finding common ground—or shared meaning and methods—for secure health data exchange. If done right, health integration can lead to better quality, more affordable care.

2. Educate the Community

To achieve proper implementation of integrated care systems, the health IT community must receive comprehensive education on existing standards, data formats, and use cases. HIMSS believes the community needs more resources (such as implementation guides) and convening opportunities to acquire the necessary knowledge. Such education would improve the consistency of health data exchange and pave the way for interoperability success.

Health Data Exchange Education

3. Ensure Stakeholder Participation

Currently, interoperability approaches and health data exchange frameworks mostly exist in the acute and ambulatory care settings and focus on data access and exchange at the provider level. HIMSS believes all healthcare stakeholders—including patients, caregivers, payers, and non-traditional providers—should play a role. To that end, the health IT community must make an effort to address interoperability gaps in specific areas, such as behavioral health, and to focus on patient-directed electronic health data exchange.

4. Identify Business Rules for Trusted Exchange

The diverse healthcare ecosystem is in need of some basic business, legal, privacy, and technical rules that set forth a baseline framework for trusted and secure data exchange. These protocols would simplify the interoperability onboarding process and enable better care coordination. HIMSS believes the Health Information Technology Advisory Committee should facilitate the creation of these protocols but allow the public to provide comments and feedback.

5. Standardize Identity Management Approaches

The lack of a strong identity management solution remains a major barrier to secure data exchange and integration in the healthcare environment. HIMSS believes now is the time for the healthcare industry to adopt a standardized framework for patient identity matching. This would allow healthcare professionals to quickly and accurately match patients to their data across various clinical and insurance settings.

6. Improve Data Usability

The final step to successfully implementing interoperability approaches and trusted exchange frameworks is improving health data usability. Currently, secure data sharing often involves low-quality data that does not improve the delivery of care or patient outcomes. HIMSS believes health IT stakeholders must prioritize usability by focusing on implementation of terminology standards and protocols.

HIMSS is calling all healthcare professionals to take a step forward and improve electronic health information exchange. If your organization is taking this to heart, Formstack wants to help. Click here to explore our HIPAA compliant data management solutions.


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Abby Nieten
As Senior Manager, Content Strategy, Abby leads an amazing team of marketing content creators toward a shared content vision. She's been growing with Formstack since 2015 and spent several years as a professional editor before that.
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