The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, or ONC, issued late last month its 2016 catalog of standards for interoperable health IT, which incorporates two rounds of public comments and recommendations made in response to the inaugural 2015 document.

The 2016 Interoperability Standards Advisory (pdf) serves as the single resource of emerging and existing health IT standards that are federally recognized.

In a Dec. 22 post to the HealthITBuzz blog, two ONC officials called the 2016 Interoperability Standards Advisory a "critical element" of the vision for healthcare delivery reform because it enables health data to be unlocked, securely accessed and applied to healthcare decisions.

The advisory helps government, in collaboration with an array of stakeholders, determine the "best available" interoperability standards and implementation specifications that industry should use.

"At a high-level, the most substantial changes between the 2015 and 2016 Advisory are structural changes to the way in which the content is organized, presented and annotated," noted the document.

Each standard and implementation specification now includes six informative characteristics.

For example, the advisory focuses on each interoperability need versus a purpose. It also addresses the maturity and adoptability of each standard. According to the document, interoperability needs are coupled with information on "known limitations, dependencies, or preconditions associated with best available standards and implementation specifications" as well as security considerations.

The six characteristics also "help set a baseline that will allow us to track industry progress over time as standards and implementation specifications get updated and retired; move from draft to final; mature from pilot to production; and grow from low to high adoption," wrote Steven Posnack, director of ONC's office of standards and technology, and Chris Muir, director of the health IT infrastructure and innovation division at the same office.

The second annual advisory included a summary of public comments that were received but excluded from incorporation in the updated catalog, as well as planned actions or rationale for why some recommendations were not included.

Posnack and Muir noted that the process for the next iteration of the document is already underway.

"The ISA is a continuous, annual process where we make updates and improvements – in order to keep pace with developments in the health IT industry and the draft 2017 Advisory will be published in only nine "short" months," they said on the blog.

For more:
read the HealthITBuzz blog post
download the 2016 Interoperability Standards Advisory (.pdf)