January 26, 2011

Helping develop IT standards for personal health records

Kaiser Permanente employees are providing expert guidance for a healthcare Information Technology standards development organization that has just proposed an industry standard for Personal Health Records.

The health IT standards development organization Health Level Seven hopes to create an industry standard for PHRs, the use of which are growing dramatically. The public comment period about the proposed standard closed Sept. 13.

"PHRs enable consumers to play a more active role in their healthcare by allowing them the power to integrate and manage their personal healthcare Information," said James Ferguson, director of IT strategy and policy at Kaiser Permanente. Ferguson also is the lead facilitator of the Personal Health subgroup of the HL7 PHR work group.

Industry standards for PHRs are necessary to protect consumer interests in the areas of security and privacy, as well as to promote interoperability of PHR systems so that information in one PHR system can be transferred to another electronically in an accurate and efficient manner.

Playing a large role in the development of the HL7 standards gave Kaiser Permanente an opportunity to hone its own development tasks so that their efforts could be aligned with industry expectations. KP brought the hands-on consumer experience that helped to balance discussions based on theoretical points of view. Today, more than 1.5 million Kaiser Permanente members can securely email their care providers and can check lab test results online—with more than 60,000 people signing up for these services each month.

"The HL7 process for determining health industry standards is highly collaborative and consensus driven. It was important for Kaiser Permanente to participate in the standards-development process for Personal Health Records (PHRs), as we have significant experience with our members using PHR services through KP.org," said Tim McKay, executive consultant in Kaiser Permanente’s Internet Services Group. "While others in the industry have similar PHR capabilities, Kaiser Permanente has more people actively using these technologies to help manage care for themselves and their families than any health plan within the United States."

HL7 was founded in 1987 and is a not-for-profit, accredited standards developing organization. The organizations 2,300-plus members represent 500 organizations. Benefactors include Kaiser Permanente; Epic Systems, the technology vendor for KP HealthConnect™; consultancies such as Booz Allen Hamilton; technology companies such as Intel, Microsoft and Oracle; federal organizations such as the United States Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs; pharmaceutical companies such as Pfizer and Eli Lilly, and numerous other corporations and health care organizations. HL7’s announcement can be accessed through the organization’s website.

The following is some media coverage resulting from the announcement:

Healthcare IT News, Aug. 28: HL7 seeks comments on potential industry standard for PHR

Modern Healthcare Online: HL7 opens comment period on PHR guidelines