We all have our standards. My family has strict conformance standards about Thanksgiving Day food including the cornbread dressing, the broccoli and rice casserole, and the sweet potato soufflé. If the person preparing these dishes meets the standard, everyone is happy; if not, Turkey Day grumbling ensues.
Maddux family dinner standards
The sweet potato soufflé is complex enough that it requires written standards above and beyond the basic recipe. The recipe handed down from my grandfather starts with baking 7 sweet potatoes, but does not specify the orange sweet potato variety or the ruby-colored variety. The orange Jewel variety is now the standard. The sweet potatoes should definitely be baked, never boiled. The Sweet potato soufflé recipe is pretty straightforward to this point, but then the original recipe gives 2 options for the soufflé, either mash the potatoes with orange juice and top with pecans or mash them with milk and eggs and top with marshmallows.
Once upon a time at the turn of the century, the family members might have tolerated this cook’s choice variability, but my modern family has no tolerance for the orange juice version. The standard is milk and eggs with large marshmallows, not mini-marshmallows, on top broiled to a golden brown. All of the adults in my family can reproduce Thanksgiving sweet potato soufflé to the standard every time.
Standards on a global and national stage
Creating sweet potato soufflé reliability, accountability, and product integrity for my family year after year is a daunting task, so I can only imagine the specifications required to create and verify conformance with a worldwide standard. Conformance with standards in the U.S. is the daily work of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). This non-regulatory federal agency was founded in 1901 as the National Bureau of Standards in an effort to make sure that U.S. industry could meet the standards of products around the world to enable global commerce for U.S. products. The name was changed to the National Institute of Standards and Technology in 1988 and NIST has had ongoing robust programs to develop and implement measurement science, standards, and innovative technologies ever since.
NIST is not just looking out for U.S. interests around the globe. Some NIST activities such as airport security screening systems, forensic-science testing techniques, genome analysis, and cybersecurity processes are U.S.-centered. This work to advance standards and technology is done in part by research scientists at NIST, which have included Nobel Prize winners, and in part by partnering with Centers of Excellence such as the new Center for Hierarchical Materials Design at Northwestern University.
Measurable standards and Health IT goals
Since 2004 NIST has collaborated closely with the Office of the National Coordinator of Health IT (ONCHIT) to ensure the reliability, usability, interoperability, and security of the U.S. Health IT infrastructure, including EHRs. Measurable standards are necessary to achieve the stated Health IT goals:
- High quality, more efficient care
- “Seamless, secure and private movement of data…”
- Information access at the point of care
- A decrease in errors and redundancy of care
- Efficient, effective reporting for quality assessment of care
- “Quick detection of adverse drug reaction and epidemics”
The 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act legislation requires consultation between NIST and ONCHIT to develop a certification process to ensure that Health IT systems have all of the features necessary to meet stated Health IT goals. NIST has developed the criteria, standards, and test procedures for EHR certification for Meaningful Use (MU). Certification for MU creates performance to a standard and conformance with requirements for interoperability while allowing EHRs to maintain an individual look and feel. EHRs must be interoperable with other Health IT systems and must meet demonstrated standards, but they don’t have to look alike.
World Standards Day
If you want to know more about consensus standards check out World Standards Day, which is held every year on October 14. The first World Standards Day meeting held in London on October 14, 1946, resulted in the creation of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). Today the purpose of World Standards Day is to raise awareness among regulators, industry leaders, and consumers about the benefits and importance of standardization to the global economy. NIST and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) organize the U.S. celebration of World Standards Day every year. In October 2013 the theme was “Standards for a World at Work and Play,” designed to engage government, industry, and consumers in understanding the importance of “reliability from farm to table, manufacturer to retailer, and workplace to home.” My consumer family understands the value of farm-to-table reliability….a delicious sweet potato soufflé that meets everyone’s expectations every Thanksgiving.
How important are standards to you in your daily life? Send us a comment and let us know.