Call for common e-health standards

  • 3 November 2008

A new study advocates the development of a common strategy and roadmap for e-health standards development, to support interoperability and the adoption of electronic patient records.

Carried out by German research firm Empirica on behalf of the European Commission, the study provides an overview of e-health standards development and uptake. Attention is given to the standards required by electronic health records.

The study was commissioned by the European Commission’s Directorate General Enterprise and Industry and explores the current status of ICT health standardisation processes and their future potential.

The examination of e-health standards forms part of the multi-sectorial 2008 annual European e-Business Watch study.

Five standards development organisations, an open source initiative and an industry interoperability initiative are examined in the report. It also includes the findings of a survey of 94 industry participants, expert interviews and a literature review. The research was carried out in November 2007.

Nearly three quarters of the respondents felt that within a single health service provider, the standards currently used are supportive. The majority found however that the situation was unsupportive for cross-border care provision.

One of the barriers identified to the adoption of international e-health standards in hospitals is hospital IT managers placing internal process functionality as a higher priority than commonly used standards. The respondents also agreed that managers had no financial incentive to exchange information electronically.

The study concludes there is a lack of widely used e-health standards, leading to problems with interoperability. Of the standards that do exist it says some are conflicting and many are proprietary.

The Empirica report says the current fragmentation and lack of common standards is contributing to electronic health records systems often being developed and implemented in isolation. As a result, it says, EPR systems today are often unable to exchange data within healthcare individual healthcare organisations or externally.

The study recommends renewed efforts to develop standards appropriate to e-health, developed specifically for applications like electronic patient records and based on concrete cases.

Chief among the steps it advocates is an increase the involvement of the supplier industry, national governments and end users in the development “of a more confined and harmonised number of well-developed standards”.

The report notes: “Considering recent developments in the US, the European Commission and the Member States may be well advised to develop a common strategy and roadmap for e-health standards development.”

Link

www.ebusiness-watch.org

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