Health IT Standards in the United States and Around the World

Dr. Doug Fridsma | January 18, 2013

At the Health Information Technology Policy Committee (HITPC) meeting last week, I gave an update on some of the health IT standards and technology highlights from last year, and a high-level view of the work ahead for this year’s standards work.

Obviously, much of the work of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) and the Office of Science & Technology (OST) is focused on the domestic challenges of interoperability and the technology requirements for meaningful use, but one of the committee members suggested that we should look beyond our borders to other countries to learn about (and leverage) health IT developments internationally.

The health care problems that we are trying to solve in the United States are the same health care problems that those in other countries are trying to solve. And they are big problems. So, we need to learn what works (and what doesn’t) from other countries, and work together to solve those problems.

A Need for Health IT Standards and Interoperability in Health Care Around the World

At ONC, we frequently have visitors from other countries who are looking to the U.S. to learn about Meaningful Use, and to discuss the shared challenges that we have in managing health information. While there are significant differences in the way in which different countries fund and organize their health care systems, I find that invariably at some point in the discussion the conversation turns to interoperability and standards as part of the solution. Health IT standards and interoperability are both universal needs for health care in the United States around the world.

Fortunately, OST and ONC have been engaged in the international health IT community for a number of years. We support the Departments of State, Commerce, and Trade with health IT standards expertise that is intended to spur economic development and we have ongoing conversations with similar initiatives in:

Notable milestones from ONC’s work with health IT community members from around the world include:

  • The 2010 Memorandum of Understanding External Links Disclaimer that was signed by Secretary Sebelius and Neelie Kroes, Vice President of the European Commission, which articulated a set of goals and principles that would guide international collaboration around health IT and health IT standards
  • The attendance of the Secretary of Health from the UK at a federal advisory committee
  • The continued discussions between ONC and NHS that are underway to organize a repeat visit and share progress

ONC’s activities in the international health IT community are an important part of the work we do domestically and around the world.

Next week, I’ll share some more specifics on the work we’re doing with the international community that support our development of national health IT standards for interoperability.

Read other blogs by Dr. Fridsma on standards development and harmonization, coordination of federal and private efforts toward interoperability and health information exchange, and health IT innovations.