Existing standards for data

Consider using an existing open standard where possible, either in its current form, or adapting or extending it to meet your needs.

Using an existing open standard will help to:

  • enable aggregation and linking of data from multiple sources

  • collaborate with other stakeholders around data infrastructure

  • make reusable and repeatable processes or data.

You can find existing open standards through:

  • formal standards bodies

  • conferences

  • standards teams or working groups

  • websites, blogs or social media

  • open source projects or repositories like GitHub

  • public procurement policies.

The open standards for data guidebook includes some useful pointers on how to find and adopt existing standards.

You can influence the development of existing standards through participation in standards working groups or by working with formal standards bodies.

When you adopt a standard, you may want to engage in the community that maintains the standard to:

  • ensure your needs are considered and reflected in future development of the standard

  • help with developing documentation or training to increase adoption

  • advocate for wider adoption of the standard, to reduce the likelihood of the market switching to a different standard, which would entail costs.

There is a range of health data standards options that are used globally. Stakeholders need to decide which standard or standards to adopt. There are a number of factors to consider, including:

  • how the standard is licensed

  • which standard best meets your needs

  • whether it is actively maintained

  • the level of guidance available to help you use the standard.

There is a checklist available which will help you to decide which standard to adopt.

When no existing standard is available

Where there are no available standards, it may be useful to engage partners who are working in a similar area to understand how they approach the situation.

There is always the option to lead the way and develop a new standard, however this needs careful consideration as it can be resource intensive and costly. Before you create a new open standard, you must understand the problem the standard will solve or need it fulfils.

There is more guidance on getting started with standards development in the standards for data guidebook.

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