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The Case for W3C Standards in a Healthcare Interoperability Framework

Moving Healthcare Interoperability Forward with Standards Collaboration

W3C standards define an Open Web Platform for application development. The independent World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is the main international standards organization for the World Wide Web. This consortium is comprised of member organizations that maintain full-time staff for the purpose of collaborating on the development of standards for the World Wide Web. This collaboration benefits all organizations that use technology that is based on open standards.

W3C standard technology is critical for implementing an interoperability framework. It facilitates:

  • exchange of health information more efficiently
  • communication of that information accurately, effectively, and consistently
  • improvement of the delivery of healthcare via interoperability.

RAND, JAMIA, and Congress Questioning Awarding Meaningful Use Incentive Money to Systems Hindering Data Sharing

As we have noted before in our blogs, EHR vendors continue to profit from proprietary systems despite the lack of interoperability being identified as a major problem in the implementation of EHR progression to Meaningful Use. In fact, the recent Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association (JAMIA) study confirms what is widely known among practitioners: that in Meaningful Use Stage 2, EHR template development and use of Consolidated Clinical Document Architecture (C-CDA) for document exchange is chock full of “trouble spots” such as errors, omissions, and variability that are impeding data exchange.

Were EHRs to adopt open standards based on W3C technology, the interoperability that is now so lacking in healthcare would move forward significantly, almost immediately.

Vendors and Third Party Providers Can Advance Healthcare Interoperability by Implementing Interface Engines Based on W3C Standards

Proprietary technology abounds in healthcare, not just in EHR systems. It can be found in healthcare integration, or interface engines, as well. When you look to replace your current or select a new healthcare integration engine, it is therefore important to ask yourself these 3 questions:

  1. What is the underlying technology of the application?
  2. Is any proprietary scripting required?
  3. Does the application utilize technology that is based on W3C standards?

ONC recently announced a new 10-year roadmap to increase interoperability, but it doesn’t include penalizing systems that don’t share data. All told, that makes selection of your interface engine based on W3C standards technology and its capabilities to deal with the complexities of data sharing and multiplicity of standards in healthcare a critical choice.

Utilizing W3C Standards Technology Provides Benefits Beyond Greater Healthcare Interoperability

By selecting a healthcare system based on W3C standard technology, you can be assured of an open and widely supported standard that will not be sunsetted. We all are familiar with the graveyard of integration engines and its zombie effects, for example, DataGate later renamed as eGate and recently dropped by Oracle.

You will not be locked into a technology, or even a vendor that uses a proprietary language and/or scripting that does not have broad support. Should you decide to switch vendors, utilizing W3C standards technology assures a smoother transition.

You also benefit from a vast library of web resources and the ability to draw from a large resource pool of highly skilled developers worldwide to easily support your technology investment.

PilotFish early on recognized the value of leveraging W3C standards technology. It is why our healthcare integration engine utilizes XSLT (a W3C supported standard) as the core technology behind our graphical data mapper. We also use Open APIs which allows our product to be easily extended and to facilitate greater interoperability. For more on how APIs can promote interoperability read our blog on APIs – the Magic Bullet for Healthcare Interoperability?

The bottom line? The healthcare system can no longer function with systems that are not using open standards and are not interoperable. The cost of not having interoperable systems is just too great. The consumer is faced with rising healthcare costs and a lower quality of care and the government is spending unsustainable amounts of money. We can all benefit from leveraging W3C standards technology, so make the right decision the next time you license a system.

To learn aboutPilotFish’s healthcare integration engine and how it can mediate the differences between systems that are not interoperable, please visit: www.healthcare.pilotfishtechnology.com, or call 860 632-9900.

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Monika Vainius

Written by: Monika Vainius

Executive Vice President of Applied PilotFish Healthcare Integration. Monika has extensive experience with systems interoperability. She combines this experience with her professional passion for healthcare and healthcare technology to comment on current healthcare and IT news. Website

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