On May 8, 2007 NEHTA released a report entitled “Standards for E-Health Interoperability, An E-Health Transition Strategy Version 1.0 – 08/05/2007”. As someone who has been involved in assisting NEHTA in developing reports in this area in the past, and so has considerable familiarity with the issues and difficulties that surround the area, I must say I am genuinely impressed.
It seems to me the key messages contained in this document are all very robust and sound and should be strongly supported by the e-health community. It would be of much benefit to everyone concerned with the future of e-health in
The key messages I draw from the report – in my words - are as follows:
1. Clarity and clear differentiation is required when thinking about and deciding how to approach health messaging and the internal structure of electronic patient records.
2. There is a recognition that e-Health in
3. NEHTA’s customers (the Australian jurisdictions) are interested in deploying web services approaches and
4. That Australia does not have sufficient critical mass (too small) to try to be a global standards trend setter given the investments in e-health standardisation that are now occurring in the rest of the developed world. We need to be a contributor and ‘quick learner’.
5. Just as the CEN / ISO EN13606 standard was unfinished and incomplete 18 months ago it remains so today, and with the progress being made by HL7, it is increasingly becoming practically irrelevant.
6. For the present the incumbency of HL7 V2.x messaging should be recognised and supported – and extended where appropriate – while planning commences for ultimate migration to HL7 V3.x when that is assessed as appropriate. There are still some concerns about the technical viability and implementation complexity of V3.x, but with the evolved NHS approach to its use it is highly probable useful results will be obtained in the medium term.
7. The Healthcare Services Specification Project (HSSP) seems to be an initiative with a lot of intellectual and practical fire-power behind it and looks likely to deliver highly useful outcomes over time.
8. Efforts to persuade Health Information System Vendors to change key underpinnings, internal structures and design approaches in their software are likely to be resisted unless a very compelling business case is provided.
9. The report sees no substantive place for openEHR type approaches in
10. To have actual full scale implementations before standards are agreed is essentially a sensible approach wherever possible
On the basis of these insights and findings – the following conclusion and recommendation seems both rational and sound:
“On the basis of this assessment, migrating to a Document/Services-Centric HL7 v3 approach was selected as the preferred longer-term direction, complemented by support for continued use of HL7 v2.x and development some limited extensions in the short-to-medium term.”
This clearly defines the long term future as being based on migrating to a document/services-centric approach using HL7v3 CDA R2 and HSSP. (and I presume successors). This is certainly a choice I endorse.
Implicit in all this is a new sense or practicality, pragmatism and a recognition of the reality that actual achievement of goals such as ‘semantic interoperability’ are very much more difficult and complex than may appear even at a third close look – let alone at first glance. This change is to be welcomed heartily.
If I have one problem with the report it is that in deciding not to utilise openEHR it failed to make clear the complexity of openEHR deployment at any substantial scale which I remain convinced is a major problem.
Overall it seems to me this is an excellent review and heads in the right direction.
It seems on this basis we can now adopt some of my other pragmatic suggestions from previous blogs given the place we now, at long last, find ourselves.
Steps might include:
1. A major pragmatic review of the current further standardisation priorities (in conjunction with industry and Standards Australia).
2. A review of how best to get short term improvements into the field ASAP – again in conjunction with industry.
3. Re-shaping of the NEHTA work plan to be more aware of outcomes and clinical needs.
4. A new work program to ensure appropriate information flows between the major actors (GPs, Specialists, Hospitals and Service Providers).
5. Suppression of initiatives which do not conform to the directions defined above (e.g. the money wasting activities in
6. A careful review of just what Information Infrastructure is required with this direction now so determined. (Where does the Commonwealth Government single-sign-on initiative fit, and also where do the Access Card project and the Medicare e-Prescribing work now fit, etc.)
7. A re-assessment of just what may be a practical and useful SEHR that offers utility and value for money and is politically and financially acceptable. A study of the quality of the present document on that topic would be invaluable for all concerned.
8. Utilise the same, or even wider QA processes, to ensure deliverable quality is at the level seen in this document.
I see this report as a watershed – I wonder whether it can be successfully built on?
One small nit:
“Each of the approaches and the strengths and weaknesses of each are discussed in Section 0.” Page 12. This needs to be Section 4.1 I think.