Carequality, a public-private coalition of 39 healthcare stakeholders working to solve interoperability issues via consensus, has issued to the industry a legal interoperability framework to support connectivity across any technology platforms.

Twelve organizations, not all of whom are Carequality members, worked on developing the framework to provide a standardized, easy, cheap and nationwide way for organizations to become data exchange partners rather than developing lengthy and expensive one-off legal agreements each time one organization wants to trade with another.

“Many physicians already are members of a health information exchange or have access to connectivity through a vendor or service provider,” a Carequality statement explains. “The framework allows these existing operations to access one another with the potential to dramatically increase connectivity across healthcare, including provider organizations, payers, government agencies and more.”

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The framework includes legal and governance documents such as:

Carequality Connected Agreement: This is a 15-page document establishing “rules of the road” for interoperability and defining an implementer’s rights and responsibilities. Just as your cellular service provider can set you up to exchange messages with any willing person, the framework will do the same for healthcare stakeholders, says Dave Cassel, director of Carequality.

Carequality Connection Terms: A document containing standard terms implementers must make legally binding on their users who exchange messages through the framework and are listed in the Carequality directory. For instance, a provider making a query for information from another entity to support treatment must actually be doing the treatment and not research. This, Cassel says, is one of the rules of the road that all participants must follow. The Carequality Connection Terms put the onus on vendors to make sure their customers are following the framework’s principles.

Dispute Resolution Process: A document outlining steps to address formal disputes that may arise between implementers or between implementers and Carequality.

Implementation Guides: A series of guides offering technical specifications and requirements, and business and policy requirements for specific use cases. The first implementation guide will focus on query-based document exchange. Other user cases on the horizon likely will cover care coordination, closing referral loops and exchanging diagnostic imaging information, among other functions.

So far, two organizations not yet identified have signed a contract to follow the Carequality interoperability framework, Cassel says.

Organizations instrumental in developing the interoperability framework—which is not the same as adopting the framework—include Coordinated Care Oklahoma, eClinicalWorks, Epic, Greenway Health, HIE Texas, Intermountain Healthcare, Kaiser Permanente, Kansas Health Information Network, Netsmart, NextGen Healthcare, Surescripts and Utah Health Information Network.

Carequality will announce initial implementers in coming weeks. More information is available here.

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