Sequoia Project sets sights on semantic interoperability with new guidance effort

The Sequoia Project announced Wednesday that it’s forming a new Data Usability Workgroup to continue removing barriers to interoperability, and is calling for participants in advance of its first meeting later this month.

The workgroup, part of the Sequoia Project’s Interoperability Matters cooperative, is focused first on developing three implementation guides to data usability requirements for provider-to-provider, provider-to-public health agency and healthcare entity-to-consumer information exchange.

Members of the workgroup will be tasked with developing specific guidance on clinical content for those three broad use cases, with a focus on streamlined clinical workflows and data usability.

The goal is to “target improvements necessary to enable semantic interoperability of health information and will build on existing work,” according to the Sequoia Project. “Semantic interoperability will improve the usability of data received by end users within their workflows.”

To gain input from an array of voices, Sequoia says all “interested public and private stakeholders” are welcome to participate in the project, which kicks off with a call on Thursday, October 29, at 3 p.m. ET. Participants can sign up via its volunteer registration form.

HIMSS, parent company of Healthcare IT News, defines four levels of interoperability, with semantic the third most mature:

  • Foundational (Level 1): establishes the interconnectivity requirements needed for one system or application to securely communicate data to and receive data from another.
  • Structural (Level 2): defines the format, syntax and organization of data exchange, including at the data-field level for interpretation.
  • Semantic (Level 3): provides for common underlying models and codification of the data, including the use of data elements with standardized definitions from publicly available value sets and coding vocabularies, providing shared understanding and meaning to the user.
  • Organizational (Level 4): includes governance, policy, social, legal and organizational considerations to facilitate the secure, seamless, and timely communication and use of data, both within and between organizations, entities and individuals. These components enable shared consent, trust and integrated end-user processes and workflows.

In a more detailed definition, HIMSS explains that “semantic interoperability is the ability of two or more systems to exchange information and to interpret and use that information. Semantic interoperability takes advantage of both the structuring of the data exchange and the codification of the data, including standard, publicly available vocabulary, so that the receiving information management systems can interpret the data. Semantic interoperability supports the electronic exchange of patient data and information among authorized parties via potentially disparate health information and technology systems and products to improve quality, costs, safety, efficiency, experience and efficacy of healthcare delivery.”

“We value input from all stakeholders who have successfully laid the infrastructure of sharing, and are ready to take a closer look at how we can improve the value of the data actually exchanged across that infrastructure,” Sequoia Project CEO Mariann Yeager said in a statement about the new Data Usability Workgroup.

“We invite differing views and know that the workgroup will reach a consensus for what’s best for the public good,” she said, “not only for immediately enhancing the usability of data exchanged today, but laying the groundwork required to deliver on the promise of future technologies such as machine learning and artificial intelligence.”

“This new workgroup is a broadening, next evolution of a similar previous industry effort I was a part of in 2018,” added Dr. Steven Lane, clinical informatics director for privacy, information security and interoperability at Sutter Health and chairman of Sequoia’s board. “That small, but passionate group has reached consensus on guidance to improve interoperable data exchange across their users, and now The Sequoia Project will build on this work to achieve even greater government and industry participation and adoption of the future implementation guides.”

Twitter: @MikeMiliardHITN
Email the writer: [email protected]

Healthcare IT News is a publication of HIMSS Media.

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