By Joey Berlin
The federal government is trying to standardize data sharing so electronic health records (EHRs) across the country can all speak the same language. The Texas Medical Association is telling the government to keep working on it.
TMA submitted comments on the draft of version 3 of the United States Core Data for Interoperability (USCDI), which aims to establish data-sharing standards “for nationwide, interoperable health information exchange.” USCDI updates come from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), which released the version 3 draft in January. The first version of USCDI became part of certain EHR certification criteria.
In an April 27 letter to ONC, TMA offered several suggestions on how to improve the proposed new version, including:
- Assign “applicable vocabulary standards” to any data elements added to the USCDI so there’s an established way to refer to those data across EHRs. “Adding nonstandard elements will result in an enormous amount of vendor and end-user work that will simply create nonstandard data that are difficult to transfer. It also will create an excessive amount of rework in the future once applicable vocabulary standards are set for these data elements,” TMA said in the letter.
- Test EHR vendors and users to ensure a smooth transfer of data from previous USCDI versions 1 and 2. TMA told ONC it is hearing from physicians already frustrated “because of the manual manipulation of data received [from EHRs] that places additional burden on practice staff who are already stretched thin.” Information that a physician receives from a hospital, TMA said, “is not always in a human-readable format or is so limited as to be not useful or actionable.”
In fact, then-TMA President E. Linda Villarreal, MD, and Ogechika Alozie, MD, chair of TMA’s Committee on Health Information Technology, urged ONC to delay finalizing and requiring the new USCDI version “until EHR vendors prove their users are able to functionally use USCDI versions 1 and 2 and that all data elements” are streamlined.