ONC updates interop specs for sexual orientation, gender identity and SDOH

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology on Friday released the United States Core Data for Interoperability version 2, with updated details on how data elements related to sexual orientation, gender identity and social determinants of health can enable streamlined exchange and improve care for “all patients who access the nation’s healthcare system,” said Dr. Rachel Levine, HHS assistant secretary for health.

Updated after drawing on extensive stakeholder feedback, USCDI v2 – the standardized set of health data classes and constituent data elements for nationwide health information exchange – is now updated with more data types: three new data classes and a total of 22 new data elements.

“Today’s release makes USCDI version 2 available for consideration as part of ONC’s Standards Version Advancement Process, which will take place this fall,” said agency officials in a news release. “The SVAP allows health IT developers to update their certified health IT to support newer versions of the USCDI (among other standards) and provide those updates to their customers, including providers and hospitals, before they are required by regulation.”

With this new update, health IT stakeholders “will have clearer direction toward the standardized, electronic exchange of social determinants of health, sexual orientation, and gender identity among several other updated data elements,” according to ONC, which notes that the update “lays the foundation for the provider community to start systemizing the capture and use of SDOH and SO/GI data in the clinical setting.”

Officials note that the update does not not require clinicians at provider sites to record this data, or to share it, even though they are encouraged to.

“It does however set a path forward for health IT to build in support for exchanging these data as they become applicable to an individual’s care.”

HHS officials say the COVID-19 public health emergency has highlighted the need for access to reliable data – especially for vulnerable, marginalized or underserved individuals.

While many efforts are underway to help hospitals and health systems do better collecting, managing and sharing SDOH and SO/GI data – and some efforts have been underway for many years – the agency points to CDC data showing that many providers have still not developed adequate systems to collect structured data of those types.

Lack of access to such information puts up barriers to ensuring the specific health care needs  of LGBTQ patients are met, officials say. Social determinants factors, too, play a big influence on how health is managed, and lack of access to relevant SDOH information may prevent healthcare providers from delivering optimal care.

Said Secretary Levine: “For accurate, compassionate, and safe care, it is important for a patient’s sexual orientation and gender identity to be part of their care coordination and this new version helps prioritize next steps for the healthcare community as well as help identify patients’ specific nonmedical needs – like housing, transportation, and poverty – that affect health to coordinate care and assistance to improve health outcomes.”

“USCDI version 2 builds on the feedback we received from a wide variety of stakeholders,” said National Coordinator for Health IT Micky Tripathi, in a statement. “We heard that this new version of the USCDI should reflect America’s diversity and include data elements like sexual orientation, gender identity, and social determinants of health while helping to address disparities in health outcomes for minoritized, marginalized, and underrepresented individuals and communities.”

Twitter: @MikeMiliardHITN
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