Why Take EHR Data Out Of Structured Format?

Neil Versel | InformationWeek Healthcare | January 14, 2013

HL7's conversion tool may seem counterproductive, but it's meant to encourage patients to use Blue Button.

Even as the forthcoming Stage 2 of the Meaningful Use electronic health records (EHR) incentive program is supposed to encourage healthcare providers to put patient data in structured format, an important standards development organization has developed a tool to convert some structured data to plain text. But the move may not be as unusual as it seems at first glance.

Health IT standards organization Health Level Seven International (HL7) released a tool to convert patient-specific data in the HL7-sanctioned, XML-based Continuity of Care Document (CCD) format to unstructured text, as specified by the Blue Button initiative.

Created at the U.S., Department of Veterans Affairs in 2010, Blue Button is meant to simplify patients' access to their own medical records, allowing them to download their information to personal health records (PHRs) or print a copy simply by clicking on a blue button displayed prominently on an EHR portal page. Officials at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) last year embarked on a campaign to make Blue Button a de facto standard for patient engagement in the private sector, even though it does call for unstructured data...