Monday, March 31, 2008


Washington -- The jumble of terms in health information technology soon could be simplified. The National Alliance for Health Information Technology announced March 24 that it finished proposed definitions for five key HIT terms and will seek public comment on them until April 9.

The ONC chose the terms because they are the most often confused. Lawmakers have proposed bills that use the terms in different ways, said Karen M. Bell, MD, director of the ONC's Office of HIT Adoption.


After the definitions are finalized, the ONC will officially adopt them and use them in its contract language, said alliance Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Jane Horowitz, who leads the project. Organizations and companies should follow and operationalize the definitions throughout health care, she said

One of the most significant developments would be distinguishing EMRs from EHRs. The two are frequently used interchangeably. The alliance proposed identifying an EMR as medical information on an individual patient from a single organization, including affiliated settings. EHRs would be data on a patient aggregated from multiple organizations.

The National Alliance for Health Information Technology has proposed definitions for several common health IT terms:

Electronic medical record: A computer-accessible resource of medical and administrative information available on an individual collected from and accessible by health care professionals involved in the patient's care within a single care setting.

Electronic health record: A computer-accessible, interoperable resource of clinical and administrative information pertinent to the health of an individual. The information, drawn from multiple clinical and administrative resources, is used by a broad spectrum of clinical personnel. This enables them to coordinate the patient's care and promote wellness.

Personal health record: A computer-accessible, interoperable resource of pertinent health information on an individual. Unlike the EHR, however, the PHR is managed by the patient, and the patient determines who has the right to access and use it. The information originates from multiple sources and is used by individuals and their authorized clinical and wellness professionals to help guide and make health decisions.


The terms health information exchange and regional health information organization have overlapped, the alliance said. It based its definitions on their root meanings. HIE reflects the technological aspects of sharing data, while RHIO reflects the drive for better health care quality and efficiency within a region.

So the alliance defined HIE as the electronic movement of health-related data across nonaffiliated organizations in a way that protects privacy and security.

It defined a RHIO as a multi-stakeholder governing entity responsible for electronic information exchange within a geographic area. A RHIO must involve data sharing between separate entities in a defined area whose collaboration crosses organizational boundaries. It also must be focused on the greater good of a defined population area, instead of specific disease communities, such as a network exchanging information only on diabetics.

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