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HHS Posts Draft Electronic Health Record Standards

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The Health and Human Services Department wants the public's input on a document that might help patients' medical records follow them between health systems. 

HHS published a draft "Interoperability Standards Advisory" last week, part of its efforts to make the country's electronic medical records systems compatible with each other. In a fully interoperable health system, a patient hospitalized in a new city could look up and transfer their records from their previous health care provider.  

Broadly, HHS' Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology aims for consumers to be able easily send their health information "to any desired location, learn how their information can be shared and used, and be assured that this information will be effectively and safely used," according to HHS.

The agency also aims to create and implement national standards for the companies that create electronic health records systems, including for privacy and security. 

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With the new draft, which sketches out standards for recording information such as patient allergies or lab tests, ONC is working toward nationwide interoperability. It's a multiyear process—in 2014, ONC published its "10-Year Vision to Achieve an Interoperable Health IT Infrastructure."

The interoperability draft is open for comment until Oct. 24.

HHS has also been trying to make the interoperability standards more interactive so records providers and other groups can navigate it easily. This version intends to "shift the ISA experience from a static, PDF to an interactive, wiki style product," an HHS blog post said. 

A more interoperable health system might also help public health organizations, including parts of the government, with "real-time disease surveillance and disaster response," as well as "value-based payment that rewards higher quality care, not necessarily a higher quantity of care," according to HHS' 10-year vision. 

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