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Effective clinical data exchange helps healthcare organizations improve the quality of care, minimize hospital readmissions and save costs. With the widespread adoption of EHR systems in many healthcare organizations across the country, there’s a huge amount of data residing on providers’ computers. However, clinical data exchange is still a challenging task even where there are communication networks that can make such exchanges fast and efficient.

One of the major challenges preventing full data interoperability is the inconsistent use of data standards for encoding and organizing health data so that it can be accepted and properly interpreted by the receiving system. Within a provider organization, the absence of common data standards can hinder information sharing between laboratories, pharmacies and healthcare providers. It can also create obstacles between providers and payers.

Since achieving true healthcare interoperability is a top priority for all major providers and other industry stakeholders, we’ll be looking at the major data standards and how they can boost effective health data exchange.

What Are Health Data Standards?

Data standards are methods that have been agreed upon for connecting two or more systems together. Standards may be set for data format, data structure, encoding, data transport, the definition of codes and data security.

This forms the basis of interoperability across healthcare organizations and in between EHR systems. Also, seamless data sharing is essential for providers that want to earn incentive payments through the Promoting Interoperability Program (previously called meaningful use).

Health data standards are created, defined and updated by standards development organizations (SDO) in the healthcare industry. SDOs such as Health Level Seven and DirectTrust have created some of the most widely used standards in the industry. So, what are the most popular standards used in the industry today?

Major Health Data Standards Used for Clinical Data Exchange

The three major healthcare industry standards that provide support for comprehensive data sharing include:

Consolidated-Clinical Document Architecture (C-CDA)

C-CDA was created by the joint effort of ONC, Health Story Project, Integrating Healthcare Environment and HL7. This standard helps EHR systems and their users to create clinical documents that have both Extensible Markup Language (XML) and human-readable text. It has a template library and guidelines on how to use them for different types of documents.

Providers use C-CDAs to create and send the following types of documents:

  • Consultation notes
  • History and physical summaries
  • Procedure notes
  • Operative notes
  • Diagnostic imaging reports
  • Progress notes

Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR)

HL7 developed this Internet-based health data standard to connect discrete data elements. The data elements, also called resources, have standardized and shareable identifiers that work like the URL on a webpage. This allows for discreet data sharing instead of a document-based exchange. FHIR has become popular because it defines the structure of information that is shared across most major EHR implementations.

How Can You Use Data Standards to Improve Healthcare Interoperability?

The key is to collaborate with EHR vendors and custom medical software developers to implement uniform data standards across the organization.

For more information on how to identify ways to implement the most widely used health data standards in your organization, call Lifepoint Informatics at 877.522.8378 for a free consultation today. We have completed more than 20,000 projects with over 500 medical entities over the last 20 years.