Is CCD the patient data exchange standard to rule them all in healthcare?

By Leon Liang, Marketing Research Analyst

Is CCD the patient data exchange standard to rule them all in healthcare?

It’s already well known that the healthcare industry is trying to find a single standard for patient data exchange—the way hospitals, physicians and other facilities share Electronic Health Records (EHR) and Electronic Medical Records (EMR). After all, the ability to seamlessly share patient data is key to better care, better patient outcomes and new discoveries.

The two most common standards for secure clinical data exchange are Clinical Document Architecture (CDA), designed by Health Level 7 (HL7), and Continuity of Care Record (CCR), developed by ASTM International. HL7 and ASTM are not-for-profit standards developing companies, with the former’s mission to empower global health data interoperability.

However, these two standards are not compatible with each other.

That’s why HL7 and ASTM collaborated/teamed up on Continuity of Care Document (CCD) a near-universal standard that structures and encodes a patient summary into a document that solves most issues of interoperability between different information exchange platforms. It allows health service providers to exchange data with efficiency and security.

CCD blends the advantages of both formats:

  • It can be rendered as HTML or PDF, which avoid the need for proprietary software or hardware to read.
  • It has a mandatory freeform text section which can be read by the naked eye and improves meaning and accuracy of translation.
  • It contains an efficient modifiable up-to-date summary of the relevant, medical, demographic and administrative data for a given patient in one file. The file is searchable which allows for efficient and comprehensive examination of the patient’s medical history to detect possible trends or changes in health status.
  • The XML-based technology allows for broad compatibility with existing apps and platforms as well as seamless assimilation into future technology or standards.

CCD is revealing itself as a possible “one standard to rule them all,” yet fear of change rears its ugly head as an obstacle. Health departments, hospitals and other government entities are reluctant to adopt the latest advanced EMR information exchange technologies.

To fight this resistance, the Office of the National coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), along with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services CMS have created incentive payments to encourage eligible professionals, facilities and hospitals to implement, upgrade and demonstrate “meaningful use” of certified EMR systems. Meaningful use details specific objectives—of efficiency, security, transparency and, eventually improved health outcomes—to be achieved to qualify.

The ONC’s endorsement and promotion of CCD is facilitating growth of it use.

So, what’s all this mean to you if you’re a healthcare professional? Simply this. Electronic personal health records are the future. By migrating to the most advanced and adaptable standards available, you have an opportunity to lead by example while future-proofing your healthcare organization and facilitating patient data exchange.


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