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The Learning Healthcare System Starts with the Vendor-Neutral Archive
By Larry Sitka

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, commonly referred to as ONC, recently released “Connecting Health and Care for the Nation, A Shared Nationwide Interoperability Roadmap (DRAFT Version 1.0).” Inside the 166-page framework description, ONC introduces the need for a platform called a Learning Health System, which it defines as “an environment that links the care delivery system with communities and societal supports in ‘closed loops’ of electronic health information flow, at many different levels, to enable continuous learning and improved health.”

The ONC document is designed to be a 10-year roadmap that describes barriers to interoperability across the current health IT landscape, including a description and proposal for a desired future state of healthcare IT. It introduces an architecture overview for a learning healthcare system and what is required of such a system.

In the report, ONC states that “by 2024, individuals, care providers, communities and researchers should have an array of interoperable health IT products and services that support continuous learning and improved health. This ‘learning health system’ should also result in lower health care costs (by identifying and reducing waste and preventable events), improved population health, empowered consumers and ongoing technological innovation” through coordinated care plans.

The report states that in the future, “all individuals, their families and health care providers should be able to send, receive, find and use electronic health information in a manner that is appropriate, secure, timely and reliable. Individuals should be able to securely share electronic health information with care providers and make use of the electronic health information to support their own health and wellness through informed, shared decision-making.”

While the vision and future state put forth by the ONC is sound, as healthcare professionals, we must ask ourselves, “Where do we begin?” and, “What can we do today to begin reaping some of the benefits of interoperability and providing the foundation for the next 10 years?”

As with any technology revolution, certain technologies mature faster than others and begin to provide a glimpse of the future landscape. In the case of interoperability, the vendor-neutral archive (VNA) is a mature technology that is already playing a leading role in evolving the current healthcare ecosystem toward a learning healthcare system and providing a means for real-time healthcare delivery.

The foundation for a learning healthcare system is the basis of what a VNA provides today. Leveraging and thinking of a VNA as merely an imaging storage tool is shortsighted. Why not envision the VNA as providing the pathway and functionality for a patient-centered healthcare discovery tool? The VNA already has the capability to provide an IT interoperability framework that enables many applications to work in unison to learn the context of a patient, inside or outside the current healthcare organization. By leveraging a VNA in this context, suggestive results can be provided to the healthcare organization’s clinicians, physicians, and, Read more from originating source…