A Brave New World: Data Standardization

Date: September 2, 2020||   0  Comments

State health IT leaders on their path to the interoperability deadline

A deadline is fast approaching. No one knows that better than Vishal Chaudhry and Amy Zimmerman.

Chaudhry is Chief Data Officer, Clinical Quality and Care Transformation for the Washington State Healthcare Authority. Zimmerman is State HIT Coordinator for Rhode Island’s Executive Office of Health and Human Services.

They’re each playing important roles in their states’ implementation of the Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resource (FHIR) standard – key to meeting the requirements of CMS’ new interoperability rule.

The first of those requirements are set to take effect January 1, 2021.

Chaudhry and Zimmerman recently shared their insights into the process during a Healthcare IT Connect webinar hosted by Optum Vice President and Senior Client Executive Diane Evenson.

For Zimmerman’s team in Rhode Island, it began with creating what she says is her state’s first ever strategic health IT roadmap.

“We did a lot of stakeholder assessments and feedback and input,” she explained. “And then we did a gap analysis.”

In Washington State, Chaudhry’s team is working with payers and other stakeholders to make sure they don’t end up with a multitude of solutions that aren’t compatible.

They’re also focused on understanding the requirements as they relate to Medicaid data and making that data accessible in time to meet CMS’ deadline.

“The ramp-up is really steep,” said Chaudhry. “We didn’t have enough time to do it all before COVID hit.”

While the pandemic may have slowed progress on implementation, it has accelerated the understanding of FHIR’s value. Chaudhary and Zimmerman explain in this video: Potential benefits of FHIR revealed by COVID-19


The path forward

Both Chaudhry and Zimmerman stressed collaboration as a driving force for their implementation plans. Working together with other governmental agencies as well as private entities to establish governance early on is key.

It’s a work in progress.

“I think there’s a lot of education that still needs to happen across the state,” explained Zimmerman. “I think the large hospital systems and those folks that have a lot of IT support staff and the payers are aware of this. But I’m not sure how much the small and medium-size practices, of which we have a lot in Rhode Island, are aware.”

For Chaudhry, there’s an added challenge. Each of Washington’s 39 counties has its own health department tasked with meeting the new standards. He’s tasked with making sure they’re working toward the right goal.

“There’s a difference between standardization and uniformity,” explained Chaudhry. “We’re not trying to achieve uniformity. We’re trying to achieve standardization here so that we can create predictability in the way we work through these challenges and issues and opportunities that may come along.”

A key part of Washington’s strategy is moving away from large data repositories and toward more modular data storage systems. Chaudhry explains in the video below.

For those working in health IT at states, this is an incredibly busy time.

Just when they were making progress on major systemic adjustments to meet a new interoperability standard, they were hit with a pandemic that only added demand for their services.

There’s a little good news on that front. While the interoperability rule takes effect January 1, 2021, CMS recently announced it won’t enforce it until July 1, 2021 – a six-month reprieve.

To view the complete webinar featuring Amy Zimmerman and Vishal Chaudhry sharing their insights (A Brave New World: Data Standardization), click here.

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