Healthcare Directories Workshop Focuses on Secure Validation of Clinician Data

By Daniel Chaput, IT Specialist, ONC

For patients, healthcare providers, and health plans (among other stakeholders) who need trustworthy, actionable information, the advantages of validated “healthcare directories” are wide ranging and will play an increasing part in our nation’s interoperability infrastructure. Healthcare directories play a critical role in enabling identification of individual providers and provider organizations, as well as characteristics about them, their relationships, and the means by which to access and exchange health information among them electronically. Healthcare directories support a variety of use cases, including: electronic endpoint discovery, referrals and transitions of care, health plan enrollment, provider selection, and provider credentialing and privileging.

ONC convened a workshop June 13-14 for stakeholders interested in healthcare directories. This year’s event (a follow-up to one held in 2016) served as an opportunity to reflect on progress and dive deeper into what’s still needed to enhance interoperability in the years ahead. Since our last workshop, the community at large has worked within Health Level 7 (HL7®) to develop a Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR®)-based standard called the Validated Healthcare Directory Implementation Guide (VhDir IG). This standard is capable of supporting a broad range of directory uses to address clinician burden, redundant processes, and quality improvement.

This year’s workshop moved beyond “talking tech” to focus on governance, legal, and operational issues. We discussed current problems and generated a number of new ideas about how to gather, validate, and distribute clinicians’ demographic and practice data. Attendees represented a wide range of perspectives, including health information exchanges, chief technology officers, health IT architects, standards experts, software developers, healthcare providers, health plans, state health departments, and federal partners.

Meeting attendees coalesced around the concept of a “Validated Healthcare Directory,” which envisions a directory that could support the core data used by many stakeholders. This conceptual directory would also subsequently allow a provider to report updates to one place and have them be centrally validated. Such a directory would also have the ability to identify who did the validation and to trust their conclusions while supporting many local directories, needing only a sub-set of information.

If a fix for this wide-ranging problem could be crafted, it would provide relief across the spectrum of healthcare. For patients it might mean more accurate practice location or billing data. For providers, a validated directory could help reduce health IT burden. For health plans, this kind of directory would help with regulatory compliance, efficiency, and accuracy at the same or less cost. For regulators, it means the availability of data and an infrastructure that can be audited. For software developers, it provides a standard way to gather and share the information.

If you would like to learn more about the workshop and other details related to healthcare directories please check out the Healthcare Directories section of the ONC’s Tech Lab.

This post was originally published on the Health IT Buzz and is syndicated here with permission.