Getting nutrition embedded into health care standards is no easy task. It takes vision, leadership and dedication, plus the ability to help others reach a consensus. At the Health Level Seven International Working Group Meeting earlier this month, the standards organization recognized a leader in nutrition informatics.
Elaine Ayres, deputy chief of the laboratory for informatics development at the NIH Clinical Center, was named HL7 Volunteer of the Year. Ayres was one of three members HL7 honored with the 19th annual W. Edward Hammond, PhD Volunteer of the Year Award. Established in 1997, this award — named after one of HL7's founding members, most active volunteers and past board chair — recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions to HL7's success. It couldn’t have gone to a more deserving member.
Ayres joined HL7 in 2010 to help assure the incorporation of diet, food allergy and nutrition data in standards to support exchange of this critical, but previously missing, data in clinical summaries for transitions of care, care planning and care coordination. She has led the effort to develop a new model for allergies and intolerances that supports recording of food and medication allergies in electronic health records.
She quickly determined that one challenge in developing a new model was the lack of clinical terms to adequately record food substances. So, Ayres initiated a collaboration with terminology standards organizations such as the International Health Terminology Standards Development Organization (IHTSDO), the National Library of Medicine and other volunteers from within the Department of Veterans Affairs. They expanded the SNOMED vocabulary to support structured data for food substances for use in documenting food allergies, intolerances and patient preferences.
Ayres' leadership as a co-chair of the patient care work group at HL7 has advanced nutrition informatics to a whole new level! Congratulation, Elaine Ayres, on this honor and thank you for being a dedicated nutrition informatics RD, or NIRD.