Posted in HIX

National Quality Forum urges broader definition of interoperability

Chris Nerney
Chris Nerney, Contributing Writer |
National Quality Forum urges broader definition of interoperability

True interoperability must go far beyond the exchange of data between provider electronic health record systems (EHRs) to include all relevant information from other sources, according to a new National Quality Forum (NQF) report.

“Within the healthcare environment, various sources of patient and population data overlap in functionality with an EHR but have distinct roles and importance to the healthcare system and are critical to interoperability. These include a Qualified Clinical Data Registry (QCDR), mobile health devices (mHealth), clinical trial databases, practice management systems, and third-party payer databases,” NQF wrote. “Interoperability focuses equally on ensuring that patients, their families, and caregivers have full access to view, download, and exchange their health data (often through patient portals), contribute patient-generated health data to providers’ EHRs, and arrange for the inclusion and exchange of data generated by multiple healthcare providers.”

The NQF study was proposed by the Office of the National Coordinator for Healthcare Information Technology (ONC) both to determine how interoperability should be measured and to develop a measurement framework identifying key concepts critical to measuring interoperability and its impacts. NQF convened a committee consisting of stakeholders across the healthcare spectrum including health IT to develop the framework.  

In addition to proposing a broad definition of interoperability, the NQF created several other “guiding principles” for developing interoperability performance measures:

  • Various stakeholders with diverse needs are involved in the exchange and use of data, and the use of this framework and measure concepts will differ based on stakeholder perspectives.
  • The term “electronically exchanged information” is more appropriate to completely fulfill the definition of interoperability, as it is more congruent with accepted definitions and aligns with the intent of the Shared Nationwide Interoperability Roadmap developed by ONC.
  • Interoperability needs will differ depending on the care setting and maturity.
  • All critical data elements should be included in the analysis of measures as interoperability increases access to information.