A Self-Fulfilling Prophesy: The Continuity of Care Record Gains Ground As A Standard
by Brian Klepper
We live in a time of such great progress in so many arenas that, too often and without a second thought, we take significant advances for granted. But, now and then, we should catalog the steps forward, and then look backward to appreciate how these steps were made possible. They sprung from grand conceptions of possibilities and, then, the persistent focused toil that is required to bring ideas to useful fruition.
We could see this in a relatively quiet announcement Monday at HIMSS 09. Microsoft unveiled its "Amalga Unified Intelligence System (UIS) 2009, the next generation release of the enterprise data aggregation platform that enables hospitals to unlock patient data stored in a wide range of systems and make it easily accessible to every authorized member of the team inside and beyond the hospital - including the patient - to help them drive real-time improvements in the quality, safety and efficiency of care delivery."
The announcement was amplified by a New York Times article, also Monday, by Steve Lohr about New York Presbyterian's collaboration with Microsoft, now beyond the pilot stage, to transfer patient data into consumer-controlled personal health records (PHRs). The article acknowledges that Google, as well as Microsoft, are now actively engaged as well with major health care institutions - Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic, Kaiser Permanente - to automatically move patient data into PHRs.
The facilitating technology in all these efforts is the Continuity of Care Record (CCR) Standard. Here is the Wikipedia entry, cited in the Microsoft announcement, describing the CCR. It is "a patient health summary standard. It is a way to create flexible documents that contain the most relevant and timely core health information about a patient, and to send these electronically from one care giver to another.
Because it is expressed in the standard data interchange language known as XML, a CCR can potentially be created, read and interpreted by any EHR or EMR software application. A CCR can also be exported in other formats, such as PDF and Office Open XML (Microsoft Word 2007 format)."
The creation of a new industry standard is an immense undertaking of breathtaking audacity, vision, skill and hope. It starts from scratch to craft a highly useful, flexible tool that can be easily adopted by developers, who are focused on wide-ranging aspects of common problems.
The CCR Standard was developed by a collaborative - the Massachusetts Medical Society (MMS), the HIMSS (HIMSS), the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and other health informatics vendors - under the auspices of ASTM International, a not-for-profit organization that develops standards for many industries, including avionics, petroleum, and air and water quality. David Kibbe MD, my friend, colleague and frequent co-author on this blog, was a co-developer of the CCR, and serves as the 2008-2010 chair of the E31 Technical Committee on Healthcare Informatics, the leadership group within ASTM that works with individuals and organizations on the implementation and use of the CCR standard in the US and abroad,
The CCR's increasing adoption by major players is testament to the soundness of its vision and its utility. It's advance will allow patient health data to be easily transported from one platform to another, intact and with integrity, so that better decisions can positively impact care, health, and the costs of achieving them.
This is something we can all acknowledge and admire, because it fulfills the common mission - better, more affordable care for better health - that brings us together on this site.
Brian Klepper is a health care analyst based in Atlantic Beach, FL.
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