Alliance of government, private sector and philanthropic partners aims to use widely accepted healthcare standard to help advance public health
A new initiative launched by HL7 and jointly supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) seeks to use widely recognized data exchange standards to help advance public health. The effort, called Helios, intends to strengthen the capacity and streamline data sharing across all levels of public health using the HL7 Fast Healthcare Interoperability (FHIR®) standard.
“Public health has risen in urgency and importance over the last 18 months,” said the ONC’s National Coordinator for Health IT Micky Tripathi, PhD, MPP, “FHIR accelerators have had great success in engaging implementers as early as possible to help identify and overcome longstanding barriers to interoperability. The Helios alliance is a market-based implementation collaboration that will help to ensure FHIR development is coordinated and focused on real world public health needs.”
The initiative is the latest to use HL7’s FHIR Accelerator program, which seeks to speed the development and availability of FHIR to deliver better data that leads to better health outcomes. The Helios alliance represents an ambitious new use of the FHIR Accelerator program, pulling together a diverse group of state, tribal, local, territorial, and Federal public health agencies, private and philanthropic sector partners, and other groups interested in the equitable and effective use of data for the advancement of public health.
Federal health agencies have entered an era where data interoperability-enabled solutions play a critical role. Government leaders can harness the innovative and proven capabilities referenced in this article to deliver on their essential missions.
In 2020, two major events laid the foundation for this era of interoperability.
Pandemic Response: The first was the coronavirus pandemic, which led to unprecedented needs for health data in support of agency missions. Since its start, decision-makers have required more access to and insights from these data (e.g., clinical records, administrative claims, patient experience) than ever before.
Interoperability Rules: The second was the finalization of the ONC and CMS-led 21st Century Cures Act interoperability rules. These mandates substantially expanded agencies’ ability to leverage health data solutions (e.g., algorithms, applications, and automation) at scale.
Report from Virtual FHIR DevDays 2020
A New York State initiative is aiming to change its approach for exchanging patients’ health information among the state’s health information exchanges, using HL7’s Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR®) standard as the conduit.
In addition, the new approach being implemented for the State Health Information Network for New York (SHIN-NY) has taken less time to develop and is expected to enable the exchange of more granular patient data than is possible with the current approach.
Speaking at the HL7 FHIR DevDays virtual meeting on June 15, Luke Doles, senior director of services management for the New York eHealth Collaborative (NYeC), said further implementation of the FHIR-based framework has been delayed because of the urgency to shift resources to support the state’s COVID-19 response. However, the initiative has thus far proven that the concept can be expanded to provide more information across SHIN-NY.
Report from Virtual FHIR DevDays 2020
Work on incorporating application programming interfaces using HL7’s Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR®) standard can help healthcare organizations better manage the COVID-19 crisis, but much more could be done.
A virtual panel at HL7’s FHIR DevDays indicated that API usage can help with the sharing of data, but more widespread use of this supportive programming could provide more benefits.
“If you look inside the typical hospital, there are more than 20 different clinical systems being used, but only one is the electronic health record getting the API love,” said Keith Boone, enterprise architect for Audacious Inquiry. “COVID data is showing up in bed management systems, command and control systems, ICU central monitoring and more.” Those systems are five years behind EHRs in enabling data exchange.
The COVID-19 pandemic is helping to reveal new ways to use HL7’s Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resource (FHIR®) standard to share healthcare information and coordinate services, but systemic shortcomings in existing health information systems are hampering coordination of a national response.
FHIR is being used in some initial efforts to support public health efforts, and it has the potential to rapidly address approaches to gather data and coordinate research across the planet, said Wayne Kubick, chief technology officer for HL7 International.
“The FHIR platform can enable multiple apps to rapidly address urgent new use cases, such as public health,” said Kubick during a webinar on April 30, hosted by HL7 and sponsored by CitiusTech, entitled “Data Sharing in the Spotlight: COVID Gaps, Interop Rules and The Path Forward.”
Because FHIR enables data to be easily accessed by open source apps, it can help in the rapid response needed to the current pandemic, Kubick said. “Increased global adoption can help to get to a common platform of collaboration around the world; a FHIR infrastructure is the first step in a long process – to take advantage of this infrastructure, it will require further innovative, agile methods to build out implementation guides. Standards can’t solve the problem entirely – we need the infrastructure there to support rapid response capabilities.”
This is a time of great health policy discussion and activity, especially given the challenge of COVID-19 and the finalization of significant federal regulations that will now move into the implementation stage. HL7 and its standards, such as Fast Healthcare Interoperabilty Resources (FHIR®), are a strong fiber in these developments. Discussed here are key aspects of the final interoperability, patient access and information blocking rules recently released related to implementing provisions in the 21st Century Cures Act (Public Law 114-155). The intersection of policy, HL7 standards and COVID-19 will be highlighted in this space soon. Stay tuned!
HL7 collaborates with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE), and the Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL) to support eCR Now through the use of HL7 FHIR in the nationwide initiative formulated for the rapid roll-out of automated electronic case reporting (eCR) from EHRs to state and local public health agencies.