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Press Releases: Government to Business

March 21, 2003

Federal Government Announces First Federal eGov Health Information Exchange Standards

The Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS), Defense (DoD) and Veterans Affairs (VA) today announced the first set of uniform standards for the electronic exchange of clinical health information to be adopted across the federal government.

These standards are part of the foundation of the National Health Information Infrastructure that will serve consumers, patients, health care providers and public health professionals. Standardized information exchange, with privacy and security protections, makes it easier for health care providers to share relevant patient information and for public health professionals to identify emerging public health threats. Standardized information exchange also makes portable electronic medical records more likely and easily achievable.

The three federal departments that deliver health care services are coordinating with numerous other federal agencies to standardize across federal clinical health information as part of the Consolidated Health Informatics initiative (CHI). CHI is the health care component of President Bush’s eGov Initiatives, created under the President’s Management Agenda, to make it easier for citizens and businesses to interact with the government, save taxpayer dollars and streamline citizen-to-government transactions.

”It’s important for the federal government to lead by example by selecting and adopting these standards,“ HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson said. ”With appropriate privacy protections for personal health information, consumers and patients will benefit when their health information is available to their doctors and other health care providers when it is needed, such as in the emergency room. But we cannot do it alone. The private sector will be crucial to the widespread diffusion of these standards.“

The new standards will help improve the quality of care by ensuring federal entities use a common coding system that will make it easier to coordinate care and exchange needed information. Currently, federal entities use different coding systems that make it difficult to maintain up-to-date information needed for quality care.

”VA has long advocated national standards for computerized patient records and has joined with HHS, DoD and others in the aggressive, collaborative pursuit of the adoption of national standards by all health care providers, payers and regulators,“ Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Anthony J. Principi said. ”National health information standards, already adopted by VA, will improve health outcomes, increase patient safety and help achieve optimal use of scarce resources.“

”Benefits from using common health care standards include improved patient safety and a reduction in the cost of health care,“ said Dr. William Winkenwerder, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs. ”I am delighted with our federal partnership in this initiative and with our leadership role in adopting these standards. We hope that this action will provide the momentum for the adoption of these standards across the health care sector.“

”E-Gov is focused on simplifying bureaucracy, and the CHI work in health data standards is an excellent example of how simplification can improve quality and reduce healthcare costs in America," said Mark Forman, Associate Director for Information Technology and Electronic Government, Office Of Management and Budget.

The members of the CHI are also participating in a number of projects -- individually and as part of the Consolidated Health Informatics group -- looking to establish widespread use of electronic health data systems and programs including electronic health records.

The use of VistA, the electronic health record system, has improved the quality of care and patient safety in VA medical facilities.

  • Under today’s announcement, as part of new systems development efforts, all federal agencies will:
    • Adopt Health Level 7 (HL7) messaging standards to ensure that each federal agency can share information that will improve coordinated care for patients such as entries of orders, scheduling appointments and tests and better coordination of the admittance, discharge and transfer of patients.
    • Adopt certain National Council on Prescription Drug Programs (NCDCP) standards for ordering drugs from retail pharmacies to standardize information between health care providers and the pharmacies. These standards already have been adopted under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996, and today’s announcement will make sure that parts of the three federal departments that aren’t covered by HIPAA will also use the same standards.
    • Adopt the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers 1073 (IEEE1073) series of standards that allow for health care providers to plug medical devices into information and computer systems that allow health care providers to monitor information from an ICU or through telehealth services on Indian reservations, and in other circumstances.
    • Adopt Digital Imaging Communications in Medicine (DICOM) standards that enable images and associated diagnostic information to be retrieved and transferred from various manufacturers’ devices as well as medical staff workstations.
    • Adopt laboratory Logical Observation Identifier Name Codes (LOINC) to standardize the electronic exchange of clinical laboratory results.

For more information please contact CMS Public Affairs at 202-690-6145.

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