Thursday, December 8, 2011

One standard to rule them all

I’ve been hearing a lot about creating a universal standard for EHRs lately. This standard would specify database, decision support, even interface and usability parameters. There is much to be said for a uniform EHR standard. Physicians don’t have to learn a different system if they see patients in different hospitals, IT staff will find it easier to modify EHRs, and a uniform standard may allow us to better measure quality of care and patient safety. So uniformity is good, right?
If we do have a universal EHR standard then what will differentiate one EHR from another except for pricing? How will organizations distinguish one EHR from another when it’s time to select a system? I’ve read online that implementing a universal standard will hamper innovation and stunt competitiveness. I’m not sure I buy the argument, but some suggest that setting a standard could decimate the EHR industry.
Another argument that I have heard recently is that mandating a uniform EHR standard is the only way to achieve universal interoperability. But is that necessarily true?
Verizon phones are on a CDMA network and AT&T phones are on a GSM network. The 2 networks are incompatible (I can't use a CDMA phone on a GSM network, and vice versa) but the end product (information flow of a digital sound signal) is universally compatible.
The key, I believe, is to think of standardization and interoperability as two separate issues.

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