Health Language Blog

New Measures Increase Focus on Semantic Interoperability

Posted on 01/11/17

Missed_Target.jpegNational healthcare movements demand an interoperable framework for accurate data exchange across healthcare continuums. As value-based care continues to unfold, the industry at large remains focused on efforts to mature interoperability to support high-level quality initiatives aimed at improving population health and cutting costs.

For this reason, the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) recently identified two metrics to support specific indicators of “widespread interoperability” in the industry. Developed in response to directives laid out by The Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA), the new metrics are:

  • Measure #1: Proportion of healthcare providers who are electronically engaging in the following core domains of interoperable exchange of health information: sending; receiving; finding (querying); and integrating information received from outside sources.
  • Measure #2: Proportion of healthcare providers who report using the information they electronically receive from outside providers and sources for clinical decision-making.

This move signals an effort to quantify progress with interoperability and return on investment. It is also expected to reveal weaknesses and the need for further advancement. While the industry can give itself a pat on the back for success with foundational information exchange, the reality is that there is still much work to be done.

For instance, the ONC’s interoperability roadmap calls for measurement and evaluation around three domains: 1) the adoption of technology and policy enablers that increase the capability to exchange in an interoperable manner; 2) information flow and usage of interoperable information; and 3) impacts of exchange and interoperability on improved health and healthcare and the cost of that care.

In essence, full maturity is characterized by data exchange that is meaningful and actionable to elevate performance. Reaching this level requires what the Healthcare Information Management Systems Society (HIMSS) defines as “semantic” interoperability—data exchange that is not only standardized and structured, but also meaningful, understandable, and usable.

To date, the industry has made progress with structured data exchange by introducing standards such as SNOMED CT®, LOINC®, and RxNorm. Moving to the next level of maturity—semantic interoperability—requires that systems support alignment of disparate data across all industry stakeholders. Data must be normalized around a single source of truth to lay the needed foundation for accurate, clean health information exchange and data analytics.

Health systems increasingly manage dozens of clinical, claims, and administrative systems—all with their own clinical language and proprietary codes. Thus, the right terminology management infrastructure must exist to support:

  • Terminology Governance - Aligning terminology and code group definitions, intended use, and versioning across business domains.
  • Up-To-Date Definitions - Staying current with content updates from the terminology standards bodies.
  • Systems Integration - Integrating seamlessly within an existing IT infrastructures.

Leveraging a terminology management platform like Health Language can be an important step toward aligning with the goals of interoperability. When a platform of software, content, and consulting solutions exists to map, translate, update, and manage standard and enhanced clinical terminology, health systems are better positioned to achieve the goals of data analytics, population health, and other forward-thinking initiatives.

For a deeper look at interoperability measures, check out this For the Record article authored by our own Dr. Brian Levy, Health Language Vice President of Global Clinical Operations.

Topics: semantic interoperability, MACRA

About the Author

Dr. Brian Levy, MD is Vice President and Chief Medical Officer with Health Language, part of Wolters Kluwer Health. He holds an MD and BS from the University of Michigan. Go Blue!