Recommendations for achieving interoperable and shareable medical data in the USA

Interoperable health information systems in the United States has been a long-road effort that, according to Szarfman et al., has a long way to go yet to reach its full potential. Noting the strain on the digital health systems of hospitals, physician offices, laboratories, and other entities during the COVID-19 pandemic, the authors—many of them from the U.S. FDA—”recommend the implementation of standardized data collection and transmission systems, universal identifiers for individual patients and end users, a reference standard infrastructure to support calibration and integration of laboratory results from equivalent tests, and modernized working practices” in this brief paper. After providing a contextual introduction, they discuss the lack of universal and harmonized data collection and transmission standards and highlight five major issues with modern health systems that need immediate action. After briefly discussing return on investment in adopting the authors’ recommendations, they conclude by posting 11 recommendations for U.S. legislators and nine recommendations for public-private partnerships in addressing the issues of health systems interoperability in the United States. They close by noting that while “this problem will not be cheap to fix … it will be much costlier to ignore.”

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