When I visit my family physician, my allergist, my lung specialist, or make a trip to the Emergency Department I want everyone who is looking after me to have access to all the information they need to make sure I get the best care possible. I would also like to have access to this myself. Not only do I believe I will get better care but I also believe I will get it at less cost to the health care system if my information is available in electronic form at all the places where I access the system.
For this to happen there needs to be technology standards used when information is exchanged and interpreted (please see this series of articles on clinical terminology standards, for example). Although these standards should be transparent to people using the systems, it is critically important that people developing and implementing systems understand what standards need to be used to ensure that true interoperability exists and all my information is available and understandable when needed.
Infoway, through the Standards Collaborative, invests heavily in the development of standards and coordinates activities from Standards Development Organizations (SDOs) around the world to make the standards suitable for use in Canada. It also takes on the responsibility of making them available to vendors and implementers of technology systems.
The Standards Collaborative’s membership model allows anyone to participate in the development of standards and to manage the use of the Intellectual Property associated with the standards. The international Standards Development Organizations that own the standards set the rules on usage and Infoway, through the Standards Collaborative, enforces the conditions laid out by the SDOs.
To date, much of the work Infoway has done around standards has been through projects it has funded. However, as we move forward, all systems such as Hospital Information Systems, EMRs in clinicians’ offices, and systems in the community need to share much of the same information. Consequently, there needs to be more engagement in understanding the standards that need to be implemented.
Access to those standards needs to be improved.
Improved access based on intended use of standards
As a result, the fee structure for the Standards Collaborative has been updated to make access free for those who only wish to review the standards before they use them. This means organizations purchasing new or upgraded systems can specify the standards that they need to ensure interoperability, and vendors can now view a standard for free prior to responding that they are compliant to the standard. This eliminates a barrier to organizations making standards mandatory in their RFPs.
A fee-based premium membership tier is available for members that want to obtain the rights to use the standards as well as have voting rights on standards. For a single fee, members have access to all the standards. Members also have the ability to submit requests for changes and access to interoperability solutions, technical artefacts, value-added services, training, and support. The premium membership fees are the lower than the previous fees that were in effect. The fees are nominal and only partially support the fees that Infoway pays to the international SDOs for the rights to use the standards in Canada.
The overall objective of the new fee structure is to increase the number of organizations, vendors and individuals who will use the standards going forward. This is the first step in making standards more readily available in a more user friendly form so that uptake will gain momentum across the country for all systems and I, along with all other Canadians, will get the health care, enabled by technology, that we are expecting.
More information on the Infoway Standards Collaborative and how to become a member can be found here.