National Institute of Standards and Technology maps out healthcare landscape

October 31, 2005

The healthcare standards terrain may become easier to negotiate once the federal government finishes creating its road map of healthcare information technology standards.

The healthcare standards terrain may become easier to negotiate once the federal government finishes creating its road map of healthcare information technology standards.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is constructing an online repository, the Health Care Standards Landscape (HCSL), designed to be a rich source of current and emerging information on healthcare standards of interest to the general medical community.

The HCSL performs a function healthcare itself has been unable to achieve on its own.

"While numerous healthcare organizations, both public and private, are developing specifications and standards, these activities are often uncoordinated, leading to duplication of efforts and incompatible software and tools," said Thomas R. Rhodes, a NIST IT specialist.

Rhodes said the prototype Landscape is operational and available for testing. NIST is inviting standards developers, users, and others to evaluate the HCSL. Comments may be submitted to Rhodes at trhodes@nist.gov. A user guide is being prepared and will be published online soon.

The HCSL does not contain actual standards, since these are available through the standards development organizations themselves: HL7, IEEE, ATA, NCPCP, ASC x12, ASTM, and DICOM.

NIST envisions the Landscape being used to publish and find information on healthcare standards activities and publications by developers, implementers, testing organizations, end-users organizations, and other stakeholders, Rhodes said.

"In practice, we want each organization involved with developing, promoting, or using healthcare standards to publish relevant information in the Landscape for which they are responsible," he said.

Rhodes said several organizations have expressed interest in collaborating with NIST on using and populating the database.

"Eventually, Landscape operation and maintenance will likely be transferred to another organization to manage the production capability," he said.

The Landscape was developed using open source software, Java, and open source relational database technologies to ease use and portability.

"Our objective is to enable the Landscape software and data to be easily ported to other platforms and database management systems," Rhodes said.