Join Query Health in Developing National Standards for Population Queries

Dr. Doug Fridsma | September 23, 2011

The focus of our nation’s health care system is to improve the health of individuals and ultimately the health of the population as a whole. In order to positively impact population health, we need to be able to evaluate and react to emerging health issues and trends at both the local and the national level. In recent years, the use of distributed queries has become a growing focus of health information technology. Instead of relying on centralized databases, the distributed query approach provides access to aggregate data for specific analytical purposes without identifying individual information, and allows the data to remain behind the health care organization’s firewalls, thus maintaining patient privacy and security. By “bringing the question to the data,” health care providers in their local communities are empowered to respond proactively to disease outbreaks, understand the efficacy of drug treatments, and monitor health trends. This ability to understand large-scale health trends can contribute to reducing the cost of health care and most importantly, improving the health of our citizens.

Establishing standards and services for distributed population queries can increase the speed and lower the transaction costs for health care providers to analyze and apply important information. In this way, providers, consumers, researchers, public health officials and others authorized to use it can gain insight into many health issues including:

  • Prevention activities – Caregivers could have access to a larger pool of data that will enable them to prioritize prevention procedures, such as administration of flu vaccines for vulnerable populations.
  • Health care research – Researchers and providers could compare the effectiveness of different treatments and medications in the treatment of high cholesterol and other long-term health conditions.
  • Disease outbreaks – Health care providers could monitor outbreaks of specific illnesses, such as the H1N1 virus that spread across the nation a couple of years ago.

September 6 marked the launch of ONC’s vitally important Query Health initiative. Query Health is a public-private collaboration chartered to establish standards and services for distributed population queries of electronic health records. ONC is seeking active participation from interested and engaged parties who have an interest in helping create these standards and services.

There are three Query Health Workgroups that are actively seeking participants:

  • The Business Work Group is responsible for privacy, security, consent, sustainability, data use arrangements and, Query Health best practices;
  • The Clinical Work Group is responsible for developing the Use Case, Functional Requirements, and vocabulary, as well as specifying “What questions?” “What data?” and “What results?” and
  • The Technical Work Group will be responsible for the technical implementation of Query Health including the standards and reference implementation. This group will also be responsible for support for the pilots.

For more information on these different groups, please visit the Query Health site at Exit Disclaimer.

By participating in the Query Health initiative, you will have the opportunity to affect the future of health care in a meaningful and impactful way. I urge you to visit the site and get involved with this important new initiative. Query Health is one of several initiatives that make up the Standards and Interoperability (S&I) Framework. The S&I Framework is an “open-government” initiative that engages interested stakeholders in the process of developing solutions to common health IT challenges. The next face-to-face meeting of the S&I Framework will take place in Washington, DC in October. For more information, please visit Exit Disclaimer.