Session Preview: ONC: ICD-10 Important for HIE Development

Health information exchange interoperability is a journey, not a destination, said Doug Fridsma, PhD, the director of the office of standards and interoperability at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT.

Using ICD-10 codes in health information exchange is part of that journey – a point Fridsma plans to make during his keynote address April 16 at the 2012 AHIMA ICD-10 Summit in Baltimore, MD.

ONC has worked for years convening healthcare stakeholders to solve health information exchange interoperability challenges, including standards harmonization. Integrating ICD-10 into those efforts is a key component of their work, Fridsma said, and will help the nation soon achieve interoperable health information exchange.

While recent work has been focused on transport and security standards, true interoperability must also address standards for vocabularies and code sets as well as for content and payload structure. This will ensure that once information is actually sent, the sender knows it is computable and understood by the recipient, Fridsma said.

“The release of ICD-10 is obviously an important development, as it will provide an up-to-date set of standardized codes for EHRs to utilize,” he said. “ICD-10 is part of the NwHIN portfolio. As a vocabulary to support administrative transactions, it helps us ‘standardize meaning’ so that when people exchange information about a patient with diabetes, they mean the same thing.”

SNOMED, LOINC and RxNorm are other standards that are part of the NwHIN portfolio.
“When we combine standardized vocabularies with standardized structure and standardized ways of transporting patient information, we can actually solve real world interoperability problems,” Fridsma said.

But too much planning for the future could derail interoperability and health information exchange work that is needed today to improve healthcare, a point Fridsma plans to make during his speech.

Work should be focused on building solutions that meet today’s needs, while keeping in mind that changes will be necessary further down the road.
“I like to say that we shouldn’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”

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