Representing Nutrition Informatics at HL7

Last year, I had the honor and privilege of representing the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics at the Health Level 7 Working Group Meeting in Paris. To be part of a global gathering of dedicated professionals advancing health care interoperability standards development and adoption was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

This year, the HL7 Working Group Meeting is scheduled for May 2016 in Montreal. To get a sense of what these meetings are like, here are some of the highlights from the 2015 meeting in Paris.

Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources

Many of the working groups focused on the HL7 Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources standard. FHIR originated from a growing concern in the HL7 community that interoperability standards implementation was becoming too complex. FHIR seeks to create basic building blocks that can be assembled in different combinations to send and retrieve information. Because FHIR is viewed as the path forward for interoperability, a project group led by Margaret Dittloff, MS, RDN, has been working on a Nutrition Order Resource that represents diet orders, oral nutrition supplement orders and enteral nutrition orders, plus food allergies and patient food preferences.

Essential Information for Children with Special Needs

This new project was initiated to promote communication and information exchange for children with complex health needs, particularly at transitions to new environments. ISC member Maria Santini, RDN, LND, CNSC, and former member Carolyn Silzle, MS, MBA, RDN, are involved with documenting use cases for complex feeding regimens and patient food and texture preferences. This information will then be part of the standards and document templates when electronically sending and retrieving the nutrition needs of special needs children.

Elaine Ayres's Nutrition Vocabulary Lunch

A true HL7 nutrition informatics champion, Elaine Ayres, MS, RD, hosted a Nutrition Vocabulary Lunch. As a co-chair of the HL7 Patient Care Work Group, this was not the first time Elaine has hosted an event like this to spotlight nutrition issues and raise awareness of its importance in patient care. At her 2014 lunch meeting, Elaine shared the success of a demonstration of nutrition data exchange at the HIMSS Interoperability Showcase.

She also facilitated a discussion on another important patient safety issue: food allergies. Attendees discussed what structured vocabulary was the best "fit" to accurately capture and exchange food allergy data.

And finally, Elaine advocated for making food substances (i.e. ingredients) available in a structured format on a product label to support communication of allergies and other patient information.

The Academy and members of the Interoperability and Standard Committee and the Nutrition Informatics Committee are doing important work to advocate for the inclusion of nutrition data in standards and to make those data available when and where they are needed. Participating in standards development at HL7 can be intimidating, but RDNs must be there to ensure nutrition data are included. The best possible patient care depends on our involvement.

Donna Quirk
Donna Quirk, MBA, RDN, LD, is the chair of the Interoperability and Standards Committee.