Written by David Navarro, Senior Director of Data Science, Harmony Healthcare IT While the industry goal is that health data should be captured and stored in a standard format with consistent clinical content to reduce any technical barriers preventing exchange, the industry recognizes that this is an enormous challenge. For this reason, I – along with other healthcare IT developers, providers organizations, and a variety of health care entities — attended two days’ worth of educational sessions at Part One of the Virtual Annual Meeting held by The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC). The meeting offered an opportunity to participate in question-and-answer sessions aimed at clarifying regulations. An emphasis throughout the meeting was on making data (including legacy data) available for exchange across the healthcare landscape. Interoperability as the Primary Theme Interoperability was the primary theme. With compliance deadlines looming in 2022, in-depth reviews of these pending interoperability-related topics were welcomed by attendees: The expansion of the United States Core Data for Interoperability (USCDI) The 21st Century Cures Act Information Blocking Regulation The Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement (TEFCA) Going Granular with USCDI to Make Interoperability a Reality So, how do we get started on making interoperability a reality? By going granular. The ONC recommends shifting to a methodology where data is created and stored in industry-accepted standards. For both current and legacy data, the ONC recommends starting with a foundational approach on the type of data an organization is documenting on patients, as well as, a consideration for the level of detail associated with each piece of data. USCDI, a standardized set of health data classes and constituent data elements for interoperable health information exchange, should be used as a minimum guide for provider organizations determining what data classes and elements will be stored and made interoperable. The USCDI standard prescribes specific concepts (LOINC, SNOMED, CPT, ICD10, etc.) that should be utilized to store patient observations. The ONC has adopted USCDI V1 as the content standard for current regulations but recommends that organizations keep their eye on USCDI V2 and proposed USCDI V3. Keeping Focused on the Information Blocking Rule and Exceptions A key subject in the meetings was the importance of understanding the 21st Century Cures Act’s Information Blocking Rule and how its exceptions support the information sharing process. The recommended approach for this regulation is also to first address the proper classification of data. Again, this granular data approach enables the creation of formats such as the Consolidated Clinical Document Architecture (CCDA) required for TEFCA, the Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement. This approach also enables HL7® FHIR® (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources) that is required for the ONC Health IT Certification Program, a voluntary certification program established by the ONC to provide for the certification of health IT. Striving for National Interoperability with TEFCA TEFCA is a common set of principles, terms, and conditions to support the development of a Common Agreement that would help enable nationwide exchange of electronic health information (EHI) across disparate health information networks (HINs). Expected to coordinate the effort to enable nationwide healthcare interoperability, TEFCA was released by the ONC in January of 2022 and represents the fulfillment of the 2016 21st Century Cures Act. Get a deeper breakdown of TEFCA. Getting Help with Getting Started It is important that organizations understand all the provisions detailed in the 21st Century Cures Act and apply the broad regulations to their specific interoperability use cases. All data, current and legacy, should be interoperable to ensure quality patient care and to support efficient clinical workflows. If you’re ready to get started on talking about your health data and the need for interoperability, contact me or my team. As a data management firm that moves and stores patient, employee, and business records for healthcare organizations, Harmony Healthcare IT is up to date on interoperability strategies, willing to help you develop your plans, and ready to attend Part 2 of the 2022 ONC Annual Meeting on April 13-14. Contact Us. Additional Resources Part 2 of The Annual ONC Meeting Recap As Senior Director of Data Science at Harmony Healthcare IT, David Navarro drives interoperability initiatives and focuses on the curation and accessibility of data in the healthcare ecosystem.