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Data & Technical Standards: Background

Data and technical standards are critical to the advancement of the national health IT agenda and achieving many of the agenda’s intended health goals and outcomes. Well defined standards are the foundation for interoperability between systems and for systems that can fulfill the promise of electronically enabled health and care. By harmonizing standards, different information systems, networks, and software applications will be able to ‘speak the same language’ and work together technically to manage and use consistent, accurate, and useful health information for providers and consumers.

There are several requirements for standards to fully support health IT outcomes:

  • The proper standard must be identified for a particular purpose.
  • Where there are needs for new or additional standards, these standards gaps must be filled.
  • Detailed specifications must be available to guide the implementation of standards in an exact and consistent way.
  • There must be widespread adoption of standards by healthcare information systems and their users.

Harmonized standards can:

  • Allow consumer information to follow the consumer and be available to providers to support clinical decision making even if the information originates in different locations and different computer systems
  • Promote security and confidentially in health IT systems by enabling approaches for information protection and access control
  • Improve patient safety, promote quality improvement, and facilitate clinical research based appropriate use of consistent data
  • Protect populations by supporting public health disease detection and management

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NHIN December Forum Washington, DC
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"We have hospitals in Afghanistan and Iraq, and many of the soldiers would arrive without records in Germany, with no record of the CAT scans or what happened in surgery in Afghanistan or Iraq. The clinicians in Germany would have to re-operate on the patient, would have to redo all their x-ray evaluations, CAT scans, etc...." ~ Colonel John Holcomb

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