As health IT has become a top priority around the nation, it is clear that standards and interoperability are key to the fulfillment of the goals of health IT:
- Higher quality and more efficient care.
- Seamless, secure, and private movement of data between healthcare providers and consumers without compromise or loss of information.
- Access to medical histories (including diagnoses, diagnostic tests, laboratory tests, and medication lists) at the point of care and in other settings.
- Fewer errors and redundant tests.
- More efficient and effective reporting, including surveillance and quality monitoring.
- Quick detection of adverse drug reactions and epidemics.
NIST has been collaborating with industry and others to improve the healthcare information infrastructure since the 1990s. NIST IT researchers have an internationally respected reputation for their knowledge, experience, and leadership. Since 2004, NIST has worked closely with the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (HHS/ONC).
The role of NISTis further articulated in the 2008‐2012 Federal Health IT strategic plan and the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act to:
- Advance healthcare information enterprise integration through standards and testing.
- Consult on updating the Federal Health IT Strategic Plan.
- Consult on voluntary certification programs.
- Consult on health IT implementation.
- Provide pilot testing of standards and implementation specifications, as requested.
The NIST Health IT program will help improve the quality and availability of healthcare and reduce healthcare costs by enabling the establishment of an emerging health IT network that is correct, complete, secure, usable, and testable.
The primary goals for the program are:
- Enable the accelerated development and harmonization of standards for health IT technologies.
NIST will enable the acceleration of industry-led, consensus-based standards development and harmonization to help ensure that the full set of necessary basic query and retrieval functions, including security and privacy provisions, for clinical information exist. NIST will also advance other selected health IT technology standards as appropriate. Work will be done in collaboration with relevant standards development organizations (SDOs), federal agencies, professional societies, and industry. For more information, please see Standards & Testing and Security.
- Create a health IT technology testing infrastructure.
During the standards development and harmonization process, appropriate test tools and procedures can determine and provide feedback on ambiguities and gaps. NIST will collaborate with interested entities to ensure that a testing infrastructure is created. As additional standards are recognized, appropriate test tools can be developed, using the same infrastructure. For more information, please see Standards Testing Infrastructure.
- Support the usability of health IT technologies and continuous process improvement.
NIST will apply usability principles to improve electronic health record (EHR) workflow and personal health record (PHR) use. NIST will help enable health IT deployment nationwide, and will encourage continuous process improvement and outreach efforts through program support. For more information, please see Usability.
- Address healthcare delivery beyond traditional physical locations.
There is an ever-growing need to provide remote and home healthcare for aging, underserved (e.g., rural), and chronically ill populations, which can be facilitated by leveraging existing and emerging health IT standards and testing. Pervasive healthcare explores the use of emerging technologies such as body sensors, implants, and medical equipment for routine monitoring of chronic conditions. NIST will collaborate with industry to ensure that these technologies can be integrated into the nationwide healthcare infrastructure. For more information, please see Emerging Technologies in Healthcare.
- Perform cutting edge R&D on related emerging technologies.
The knowledge-base of the healthcare enterprise is increasing rapidly, and new technologies are constantly emerging. In many of these emerging technologies NIST has pilot projects and/or programs doing basic research that has immediate and big pay off applications in healthcare. Examples include medical device interoperability, data preservation, advance imaging, color fidelity, body/home sensors, robotics, text retrieval into structured databases, genomics and proteomics, etc. This goal has potential to use NIST core competencies to expand in these areas, in support of the goals of the health IT mandate. For more information, please see Emerging Technologies in Healthcare.
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