The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT has issued a challenge to industry designed to promote the use of data provenance by HIT systems in an effort to help identify erroneous information while improving data accuracy and ultimately patient safety.

ONC’s Health Data Provenance Challenge “seeks to identify the current capabilities and methods used by industry to convey the provenance of health data as it is used to support clinical care,” states an agency announcement.

According to Steve Posnack, director of the ONC Office of Standards and Technology, data provenance provides the ability to trace and verify when and who created information, how it has been used or moved among different data sources, and how it has been modified throughout its lifecycle as it has been exchanged.

“It’s important to know the answer to the basic question, ‘Where does the data come from?’ ” says Posnack. “Knowing the source of the data, who might have been the original author and if it has changed over time are really important goals.”

Steve Posnack

At issue are whether the health data is reliable and whether the source is trustworthy. Posnack contends that confidence in the reliability and trustworthiness of the data is critical to patient safety as well as secure health information exchange. He adds that this takes on even more significance as HIE is more widely adopted and patient-generated health data becomes the norm.

“Certain health information exchange organizations combine lots of data sources and then provide their customers with the ability to query the data,” observes Posnack, who says that in cases where data’s been merged together, it’s important to understand “how that’s affected the overall picture of someone’s healthcare data.” In addition, he charges that the authenticity of patient-generated health data can be suspect as the source of the data.

Posnack believes that the current use of data provenance is variable in healthcare, which is why he says ONC has issued the industry challenge. A total of $180,000 in cash prizes will be awarded over the challenge’s two phases.

In Phase 1, which involves the submission of white papers describing health data provenance solutions, as many as four winners will be awarded $20,000 each. Phase 1 winners, who will be announced in mid-June, are required to participate in Phase 2 of the challenge.

In Phase 2, which involves the development and testing of solutions, the first place winner will be awarded $60,000, and the second place winner will receive $40,000. “Phase 2 is about a six-month opportunity to actually implement their solutions,” says Posnack.

Also See: ONC announces phase 2 winners of API challenge

In 2014, ONC launched the Data Provenance Standards and Interoperability Initiative to identify the standards necessary to capture and exchange provenance data. Subsequently, in 2015, the Health IT Standards Committee provided the agency with recommendations based on the work of a Data Provenance Task Force.

ONC notes that several standards activities help frame “record lifecycle events,” which represent key points at which audit or provenance data should or could be applied. These standards include the electronic health record system functional model (EHR-S FM), and HL7’s Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) EHR-S Record Lifecycle Event Implementation Guide (RLE IG) for FHIR’s second and third trial use releases.

Posnack adds that the HL7 Consolidated Clinical Document Architecture (C-CDA), which is used to create documents and template methodologies for medical documents, “has some fields associated with that standard that would be provenance-related.”

Additional details about ONC’s Health Data Provenance Challenge are available here. The agency will offer an informational webinar about the challenge on April 21.

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