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  • Julie Barnes

January 20, 2022

Maverick's Update

Only What Matters in Health Information Policy


Distractions can help take your mind off of [insert your favorite current event disaster here]. So we can understand why Wordle, an online word puzzle that would normally be dismissed as a nerdy game for Brits who live in New York, is so popular that Jimmy Fallon played it for seven minutes on The Tonight Show with his decidedly non-nerdy audience. Perhaps public health officials should consider using Wordle to issue COVID-19 guidance. It already takes us six guesses to understand what they’re trying to say.

Here is some distracting news from this week:

  • To help address our big data gaps in public health and social issues that impact health, the HHS Office of National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) released a draft of its third version of the United States Core Data for Interoperability (USCDI) -- a standardized set of health data elements to advance interoperable health information exchange. ONC’s latest USCDI version includes data elements related to social or environmental factors, as well as two additional elements for lab data -- Specimen Type and Result Status -- to address public health reporting priorities. Public feedback is welcome until April 30, 2022.

  • It was a busy week for the ONC team, because they also published the Trusted Exchange Framework and the Common Agreement, referred to as TEFCA. After many years in the making, the hope is that TEFCA will be the framework for the creation of a nationwide health information network -- so anyone’s health records can be located anywhere in the country with a click of a computer key to make sure doctors have what they need to know when they need to know it to treat patients.

  • Slightly more complicated than Wordle, the Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is getting into the Internet of Things game. Naturally, it wants an advisory board to help them figure it out. So NIST issued a notice of intent looking for nominations to join its first Internet of Things Advisory Board, consisting of 16 experts from multiple fields, including healthcare.

One Thoughtful Paragraph


The problem with playing Wordle if you’re a health policy person is that you’re inclined to guess all the 5-letter acronyms you know. Seriously. Just now we reported news on TEFCA and USCDI, and we probably would have put in NIST before realizing it was only four letters. Our biggest problem may be the 5-letter “HITAC” (ONC’s Health Information Technology Advisory Committee), because we so often attend those meetings that we find ourselves fighting the urge to just type H-I-T-A-C into the little squares. Just yesterday, HITAC held a virtual meeting to review projects already launched and discuss its CY22 work plans. There is a lot on their plate, like improving interoperability of lab order and lab result data, better defining SDOH data and ensuring interoperability between SDOH data and patient records, and how to deal with all the consumer-facing / focused data -- like how can patients share data they have on their smartphones with their doctor’s electronic health record system? It is a seriously lengthy set of to-do’s -- so it seems possible that HITAC’s next agenda item will be how to upload patient data via Wordle.

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