HL7 Opens Balloting on PHR Functional Model

Balloting is open through Dec. 1 on a proposed Health Level Seven (HL7) functional model for personal health records (PHRs), a key step toward bringing some clarity to the muddled and crowded PHR marketplace.

Meanwhile, HL7 has signed a memorandum of understanding with America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), to help formalize the health insurance industry’s self-developed standard for PHR interoperability to assure the smooth transfer of data when individuals change health plans.

AHIP had asked HL7 and Accredited Standards Committee X12, which sets and maintains standards for electronic data exchange, to take the PHR standard through a formal process. “Health plans aren’t in the business of making standards,” says Lenel James, co-chair of HL7’s EHR Technical Committee and senior project manager for health-IT at the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association (Chicago).

Blues plans have been working with AHIP since last year to develop a standard for portability of payer-based PHRs (see Pilot Program Tests PHR Portability).

The HL7 balloting, which began last Friday is for the Personal Health Record System Functional Model (PHR-S FM), and is open to the public at www.hl7.org/ehr

The functional model is not a standard per se. “It’s a reference list of functions, the things that a system does,” says James. This could include wellness reminders or prompts to look at new laboratory results, preferably written in plain English rather than medical jargon.

“This is the definition,” James explains, “functions that describe the behavior of a personal health record. What would the gold-standard personal health record do?” Says James, “It’s a general description, so it’s not specifications you can hand to a programmer.”

The model has three elements: personal health; supportive information such as requirements for managing administrative and clinical data; and information infrastructure.

James says that HL7 wants the PHR to be a center for patient-specific information interchange among different provider systems. “Or it becomes the place where I can at least get multiple data feeds,” he says.

Should the PHR-S FM pass this round of balloting, it will become a draft standard for trial use, allowing the health-IT industry to use it for two years. It must undergo further refinement and subsequent voting before it earns full accreditation from the American National Standards Institute.

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