The National Test Collaborative Explained

The National Test Collaborative is a proposed nationwide infrastructure for the real-time testing of health information technology and standard guidelines.

The National Test Collaborative is a proposed nationwide infrastructure for the real-time testing of health information technology and establishing standard guidelines for use by healthcare operations in measuring data.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) proposed the idea and Health IT experts across the nation have sent in their responses to the issue at the invitation of the CDC, issued in late 2018.

The NTC would provide an unprecedented opportunity for establishing standards for testing digital systems used in healthcare. They include Clinical Decision Support systems and electronic Clinical Quality Measures (eCQM). The NTC also could test the semantic interoperability of electronic health records (EHR).

That’s a wide range of topics. Some in the health IT field have suggested the CDC limit the initial scope of the project. Douglas Fridsma, president of the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA), said “a little pilot” would allow for better coordination of a new system by all the players involved.

That includes clinicians, clinical information experts, healthcare administrators and health informatics experts..

The NTC Mission

In October 2018, the CDC issued what is known in government speak as a Request for Information. These requests seek input from subject experts on proposed federal projects.

A workgroup composed of industry professionals has been working together on the issue since 2014. In a report, the group wrote that different healthcare operations currently may have vastly different processes and steps used during measure testing.

The NTC would seek to standardize these approaches, leading to better assessments of data consistency and reliability.

How The Change Impacts Health IT

In responding to the request from CDC, the AMIA wrote that it supports the development of standards that include feedback from those with implementation experience in real-world settings. Such standards would support “an adoption pathway for HIT standards,” according to AMIA.

The organization also supports interoperability testing for both the transmission and reception of data using specific standards. Improvements in these areas could dramatically improve access to accurate health records for both patients and medical professionals.

AMIA represents more than 5,500 informatics professionals. The organization sees creation of the NTC as helpful to health IT, if done properly.

However, AMIA did include a warning in its response, noting that potential testing systems “will involve organizational and legal structures that lab-based testing does not.” That could lead to some organizations not voluntarily engaging with NTC, the group wrote.

The American College of Physicians, while supportive of the effort, also pointed out the difficulty of getting healthcare organizations involved because of the “lack of direct benefit to the testing site.” Because of that issue, getting the commitment of time needed for such a project could prove difficult.

The ACP, which represents more than 154,000 physicians, said accomplishing such a large project will take “an enormous effort.”

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