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Policy Statement on Health Data Standards

[Approved by the Data Council on 4/10/96]


The majority of DHHS responsibilities involve production, collection, aggregation, analysis, and dissemination of health data and information. DHHS agencies use data generated internally and by a variety of private and public agencies. The existence and application of national and international standards for format, content and exchange of health data and information can improve the efficiency and effectiveness of Department operations. More significantly, wide-spread U.S. use of uniform health data standards can improve the cost- effectiveness of health care and greatly facilitate the collection and aggregation of public health and research data. Widely accepted standards also promote the development of interoperable commercial information products useful to the community and to government.

As a major U.S. health insurer, regulator, public health authority, research producer and funder, health care provider, statistical and information service agency, and producer of de jure and de facto content standards, DHHS significantly influences the health data requirements and practices of U.S. health care, public health, and research. The goal of the Department is to use this influence to advance the development, maintenance, and use of health data standards that meet the needs of the community at large, as well as its internal requirements.

To this end, the Department:

  • works as a partner with the private health care sector, public health and research communities, and other Federal, state, and local agencies to develop and maintain robust, consensus-based standards for the format, content, and transmission of health data and information.
  • assumes varying roles in the development, implementation, and maintenance of different standards, depending on the existence and effectiveness of existing standards development efforts. Such roles may include commenting on drafts, providing knowledgeable staff to serve as members of standards committees, providing financial support, providing coordination of standards efforts, or leading the development, implementation, and maintenance of particular standards.
  • informs the community about its intentions regarding levels of participation in the development, implementation, and maintenance of standards and of its plans and timetables for adoption of standards.
  • coordinates health data standards activities among different DHHS components to promote consistent comments, plans, and requirements.
  • adopts and uses consensus-based standards in internal operations and requires their use in data that are transmitted to the Department. The Department's adoption of standards is scheduled and phased to avoid disruption to the community and to internal operations.
  • commits to strong privacy protections as a necessary adjunct to implementation of standards.

To implement this policy, HHS participates in the activities of private standards setting organizations in a variety of ways. The coordination of this participation takes place through the activities of the Data Council Committee on Health Data Standards.

Comments/suggestions about the HHS Data Council web pages should be directed to the Data Council Secretariat.