Last December, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology threw a curveball at the Office of the National Coordinator’s criteria for meaningful use of electronic health records.

On the issue of health information exchange, the advisors said ONC was going down the wrong road and recommended adopting a “universal exchange language” that uses metadata tags to facilitate HIE while enhancing privacy. “In analyzing the path forward, we conclude that achievement of the President’s goals requires significantly accelerated progress toward the robust exchange of health information,” PCAST asserted.

ONC responded by asking its HIT Policy and Standards advisory committees, which are formulating draft criteria for Stages 2 and 3 of meaningful use, to seriously consider the PCAST recommendations. Now, a session at HIMSS11, “The PCAST Recommendations: Implications for Health IT,” will spell out the report and its ramifications.

Bruce Gordon, portfolio manager, HHS support, at MITRE Corp., will provide background on PCAST, summarize the report’s major findings and recommendations, and discuss the range of responses to the report. McLean, Va.-based MITRE is a not-for-profit organization that manages federally funded research and development centers. Following Gordon’s presentation, representatives of two HIE vendors--MobileMD and Medicity--will discuss how the PCAST recommendations could affect health information exchange.

The goal of the session, Gordon says, is to help attendees better understand the recommendations and the scope of work ahead if ONC decides to implement them on a fast track. “It is a challenging fix they recommend,” he says, adding that ONC already has spent several years trying to get consensus on data exchange standards.

It’s not a bad thing that PCAST is exposing what the advisors believe to be the right direction, Gordon notes. “You have to have a Pied Piper.” But he’s not yet sure if he wholly supports the proposed solution. “There still is the potential to mismatch data,” he asserts. “I’m not sure with EHRs how many mismatches you want to tolerate.”

Gordon’s own unease, however, also is the lasting impression he hopes to leave with the audience. He’d like them to recognize that what to do with the recommendations remains a dialogue--the direction has not been finalized and they should get involved. “This does concern you; get your voice out there.”

The session, "The PCAST Report; Implications for Health I.T." is Monday, Feb. 21, from 11 a.m.-noon.

--Joseph Goedert


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