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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

What Happens when the Funding Goes Away?

There are three ways that standards really happen.  One is when a bunch of organizations get together to solve a mutually challenging problem and develop something, like CDA or HL7 Version 2. The other is when a bunch of organizations discover that a particular piece of technology works to solve a problem and decide to make it a standard (e.g. Schematron or PDF).  The third way is when a single organization decides that a standard should exist and funds the development of it.  Large (usually governmental, but not always) organizations do this sometimes.

The question that concerns me about the latter is what happens when the funding goes away.   I've seen this occur already in some funded "meaningful use hopeful" standards projects (projects hoping to get a line a in the reg at some point).  The interesting thing is what happens when the funding disappears.  Momentum gets lost, sometimes enough that the standard itself might never really get finished, or implemented, or used.

Look at Direct for example.  it is certainly suffering from the lost momentum problem.  Was it worth it?  Given that Direct got the MU mention it was after, it will probably succeed.  But is the artificial stimulus the best approach?  Maybe, but maybe not.  I don't know what other levers to pull, but I'm surely looking for them.