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ONC Roadmap Brings Guidance for Mobile Data Interoperability

By Vera Gruessner

- In order to have truly effective data sharing and communication channels strengthen care coordination among multiple medical teams, mobile data interoperability will need to be at the forefront of federal and state regulations. Additionally, the healthcare industry will need to develop best practices for integrating mobile data interoperability throughout medical organizations.

Health IT Interoperability

Greater information sharing is important when it comes to telehealth technology and mobile health devices like smart watches or smart glasses. Essentially, mobile data interoperability allows medical professionals to communicate about a patient’s case more quickly and effectively, which will increase patient safety and improve outcomes.

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC), which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), has pushed the issue of interoperability in the past, when the agency published its first draft of a nationwide interoperability roadmap.

Last week, ONC published its final draft of the interoperability roadmap, which should help the medical field further develop best practices for mobile data interoperability. This particular news pushes forward new guidelines for both the public and private sector to incorporate in order to effectively exchange electronic medical data throughout the country to boost health and wellness.

“This Roadmap has been developed in partnership with the private sector and provides a clear, strategic approach to see that we successfully achieve seamless interoperability by creating the right financial incentives, establishing shared and explicit standards, and developing a trusted environment for data flow that enables patients to make their health records accessible anywhere they choose to seek care,” Karen B. DeSalvo, M.D., M.P.H., M.Sc., national coordinator for health IT, stated in an HHS press release.

The roadmap positions a method for healthcare providers to incorporate interoperable health IT products and mobile health devices and, thereby, improve communication channels and patient health outcomes. Some of the steps the roadmap positions include enhancing technical standards, realigning federal, state, and commercial payment practices, and strengthening federal and state privacy and security requirements.

In a 2013 PwC survey called Emerging mHealth: Paths for Growth, only 53 percent of polled doctors stated that the mobile health applications they use are integrated with their healthcare entity’s health IT systems.

Additionally, a mere 37 percent stated their mHealth applications are connected to health IT platforms of other local hospitals and clinics. Also, the results show that only 15 percent of respondents have mobile health apps at their organization linked to health data systems their patient base can access directly.

“The buyers of the market — providers and payers — must impose pressure on their incumbent vendors to enable interoperability as part of their value proposition. In this regard, information technology, telecommunications and new entrants will likely lead the charge in instigating change. This, along with payers, providers and regulators—and consumers who buy the devices—pushing for greater interoperability, we expect to see more device companies and vendors delivering on this capability,” the PwC report stated.

In order to strengthen the mobile health industry, it is critical to improve interoperability among medical devices, health IT systems, and mHealth applications. With health IT and mobile data interoperability the key to creating a more transparent and stronger healthcare system across the nation, it will be necessary for medical providers to follow the steps set forth in the ONC interoperability roadmap.

“We have made important progress in making health records available to patients and shareable among their doctors,” HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell said in a public statement. “Today, we are taking another important step forward by releasing a comprehensive strategy to engage government partners and the private sector to develop a network where health information can be safely and securely accessed from different sources. This shift will put patients at the center of their health care, improve the quality of the services they receive and advance safety overall.”

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