AMIA Supports Federal Health IT Research & Development Framework

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

R&D focused on better standards, improved interoperability, and advanced patient data access is paramount, informatics experts say

In comments submitted to the Networking and Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD) Program, the nation’s leading biomedical and health informaticians applauded federal officials for developing a draft strategic framework for health IT research and development (R&D). AMIA provided a series of recommendations highlighting the need for R&D related to granular health IT data standards, interoperability testing, data portability, and modern healthcare workforce training.

The NITRD’s Health Information Technology Research and Development Interagency Working Group’s (HITRD IWG) issued a request for comment (RFC) on the Draft Federal Health Information Technology Research and Development Strategic Framework in late May. The Draft Framework is meant to help federal agencies share information on their health IT programs, coordinate health IT R&D plans and activities, promote synergies across federal health IT investments, and articulate R&D needs to policy and decision-makers.  The Draft Framework included a description of “Motivators of Health IT R&D,” “Cross-Cutting Health IT R&D Needs,” “Collaboration Opportunities in Health IT R&D” in addition to a grid of current investments in cross-cutting health IT R&D.

AMIA outlined four areas of recommendation regarding the drivers motivating health IT R&D, including R&D to:

  1. Help make sense of the oncoming deluge of data – such as data from EHRs, the Internet of Things, new kinds of medical devices (including Software-as-a-Medical Device), environmental data, and genomic data – in the service of care delivery and wellness;
  2. Achieve widespread interoperability through “interoperability testing” of certified health IT;
  3. Educate and train a modern healthcare workforce with a foundation in informatics; and
  4. Optimize technology development by developing policy.

AMIA also identified the need for R&D in three distinct areas that are aligned with the Draft Framework’s “Cross-Cutting Health IT R&D Needs” including:

  1. Development of granular data specifications – Similar to the “periodic table of elements,” we need R&D to facilitate data re-use and interoperability through granular data specifications, including metadata, to combine discrete data elements for specific use cases, such as quality measurement.
  2. True interoperability testing – Unlike conformance testing, interoperability testing ensures that systems cannot only send data using a specified standard, but that a system can receive numerous variations on a standard.
  3. Digital, computable “print all” functionality for improved data portability – The capability for EHRs and other health IT to deliver structured and unstructured data to patients will have tremendous impact on how patients manage their health and participate in research.  Likewise, improved data portability will enable providers to transition from one system to another more easily, improving usability (by creating reducing vendor lock-in) and patient safety (by providing more than summary information during a system transition).

“These kinds of interagency efforts are tremendously important,” said AMIA CEO & President Douglas B. Fridsma, MD, PhD, FACP, FACMI. “Federal R&D support is necessary to help the private sector achieve the promise of a networked, connected health ecosystem. AMIA is glad to lend our members’ informatics expertise to this framework so it can guide and prioritize federal investments for years to come.”