STUDY: Vendor awareness of HL7 EHR standards high, users low

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Nearly all respondents (97 percent) were aware of the HL7 EHR (electronic health record) draft standard for trial use (EHR-S DSTU) and six out of 10 said they use it in the design of their EHR products, according to a survey just released by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA).

The findings are promising in light of recent pressure from the federal government for healthcare to adopt more information technology (IT) that will improve patient safety and the overall delivery of care, as well as move us closer to a national health IT infrastructure. The use of standards and a common medical vocabulary are essential building blocks for accurate data exchange, said Linda Kloss, RHIA, CAE, executive vice president/CEO of AHIMA.

Although awareness among vendors is high, AHIMA said the survey indicates more is needed to educate purchasers about the HL7 standards. Only 13 percent of respondents said their customers frequently mention the standards in requests for information (RFI) or product discussions, while 40 percent indicated that customers have yet to refer to the standards at all.

The survey also identified functional areas of the HL7 EHR model that present the greatest compliance challenges. The functions related to interoperability and electronic health information management (e-HIM) ranked highest on the list with 47 percent--indicating that standards addressing extracting and sharing data among systems and maintaining a legal record are most challenging, according to AHIMA.

In addition to the HL7 EHR standards, more than half the vendors said they are offering SNOMED-CT, a medical vocabulary created by the College of American Pathologists and a key clinical language standard needed for a national health information infrastructure, AHIMA said. In May, the Department of Health and Human Services began offering SNOMED CT for free for use in the United States through the National Library of Medicine. While 53 percent of respondents indicated they are utilizing SNOMED-CT in some way, it is still unclear whether it is being used to create better clinical and administrative functionality within EHR products, AHIMA said.

For complete summary survey results, go to