ONC’s new interoperability standards support SDOH, sexual orientation data

A new set of standards aims to enable the seamless and secure exchange of social determinants of health, sexual orientation and gender identity data.

Released Friday by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, the United States Core Data for Interoperability version 2, or USCDI v2, includes new health data classes and constituent data elements, including ones related to social factors affecting health, such as access to stable housing, food and income, along with gender identity and sexual orientation.

The first version of the USCDI was adopted as an interoperability standard in the ONC’s Cures Act Final Rule, which aims to give patients and their healthcare providers secure access to health information. It includes standardized data classes and elements on allergies, immunizations, patient demographics and clinical notes, among others.

The new version updates this set of standards with the aim of ensuring that social determinants of health and the specific healthcare needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender patients can be identified and addressed.

“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 non-medical needs,” said Dr. Rachel Levine, assistant secretary for health within the Department of Health and Human Services, in a news release.

USCDI version 2 includes three new data classes and a total of 22 new data elements. These were selected out of more than 600 data classes and elements, including merged and duplicated data elements, that were submitted by the health IT community as part of the development cycle for the updated set.

“USCDI version 2 builds on the feedback we received from a wide variety of stakeholders,” said Dr. Micky Tripathi, national coordinator for health information technology, in a news release. “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.”

The new version of the USCDI is now available for consideration as part of ONC’s Standards Version Advancement Process, which will take place in the fall. During the process, health IT developers will be able to update their certified products to support this newer version of the USCDI. But version 2 is voluntary for now.

Certain developers are required to provide their customers with upgraded health IT that supports USCDI version 1 by Dec. 31, 2022. New versions of the standards set can only be made mandatory through a new final rule.

Photo: LeoWolfert, Getty Images