HL7 delivers healthcare interoperability standards

HL7 UK and US healthcare reform

04 February 2009

Healthcare reform is a big challenge in the US where many people have no healthcare cover, and those that do pay a lot for it, and provision is fragmented amongst many providers.

The Obama administration is promising to address this, and doing so is a passion for Tom Daschle, who is respected by the president and throughout US government. However he has withdrawn from the nominations. There have been many attempts to reform healthcare in the States, and they have all met too much resistance and ended in little change - it is a hugely difficult political task.

Why does this matter to HL7 UK members? Because successful US healthcare reform will need consistent information standards to be adopted in US healthcare. This is needed for outcomes evaluation (a major Obama promise, to deliver something like the evaluations that NICE delivers for the NHS), and also for continuous care (and cover) as a patient moves around the country and between providers. It would dramatically increase the demands and resources committed to HL7 related activity.

The US is looking at what other national programs (including England) have done, and HL7 will play a big part in the standards framework that is adopted. If these are close to the ones used in the UK, then that will provide excellent continuity and economies of scale for the NHS. A credible US healthcare reform initiative with substantial investment should also add momentum to the National Initiative Collaboration on healthcare standards that was initiated by England, Australia, and Canada at a meeting in Denmark last Autumn.

A real, funded, US national program, and substantial collaboration on standards by national initiatives would both help to drive forwards a core, consistent set of healthcare information standards for global adoption. This would be a very good thing for healthcare in the UK, and HL7 UK members have the experience to help make such standards effective.

The next few weeks and months will show whether the Obama administration has the political will to deliver substantial healthcare reform quickly

Last modified 05/02/09