Two industry organizations—one that’s fairly new, and another that’s been in operation for a number of years—say they plan to work together this year on joint initiatives to improve ways that IT systems share health information.

The Personal Connected Health Alliance and Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise say they plan to pursue three initiatives in efforts to improve and simplify interoperability. PCHA and IHE signed a joint liaison agreement in 2016, and this latest announcement builds off of that, executives say.

PCHA is a not-for-profit organization formed by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society to support technology that enables personal connected health. IHE, which has been in existence for almost two decades, is an initiative by healthcare professionals and the industry to improve the way healthcare computer systems share information.

The organizations will further their collaboration on future IHE Profiles and Continua Design Guidelines development, to ensure the combined deployment of fully interoperable systems. The two groups will also collaborate on conformity testing and certification, aligning their respective tools and processes. Finally, PCHA and IHE are “committed to advancing communication, education and interoperability demonstrations to eliminate confusion among providers, vendors and standards bodies,” executives say.

Standards-based exchange of healthcare data among facilities, health information organizations and government agencies is recognized as important in improving care. IHE's Profiles and PCHAlliance's Continua Design Guidelines are both standards-based, open specifications that have been designed to be deployed together, and ensure that device data—whether captured by the patient or in a care delivery setting—flows into electronic health records in the same format and coded content.

Continua Design Guidelines are recognized as an international standard for personal health systems and comprise a reference architecture, implementation tools and services.

IHE Profiles provide a common language for purchasers and vendors to meet the integration needs of healthcare sites and the integration capabilities of HIT products.

"PCHAlliance and IHE share the same vision. That is, we believe that health information exchange is possible throughout the worldwide healthcare ecosystem and, together, we can support new innovations and create solutions to improve health outcomes, enhance understanding and help make big data possible," said Michael Kirwan, vice president, Personal Connected Health Alliance. "We are looking forward to expanding our collaboration and working closely to further extend interoperability in healthcare."

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