Op-Ed: Open Data Policy Has Far-Reaching Implications For Health Care

Viet Nguyen and Rob Sax | Nextgov | January 10, 2014

In May 2013, the Office of Management and Budget released an executive order that requires federal agencies to use machine-readable and open formats -- in addition to data standards and other regulations -- for creating and collecting information. This new policy will have a significant impact on how public and private organizations access and leverage information. It will also help build a foundation for easily sharing health data in the future. 

How do open formats support interoperability? The concept isn’t all that different from what occurred in the early days of rail travel. Two centuries ago, most U.S. railroad companies used their own track gauges when building rail lines. Although this kept their railways proprietary, it also required companies to lay tracks where others might already exist, which was both inefficient and costly. Through consolidation and other partnerships, railways eventually standardized the track gauge, leading to a more collaborative, practical and efficient use of existing railways.

Just as “standard gauge” evolved to enable interconnectedness throughout the railway system, the new regulations requiring agencies to use data standards as well as machine-readable and open formats will help organizations access and leverage data more efficiently. [...]