Exporting / Importing Data from an EHR Using CCDA

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CCDA is also called Consolidated Clinical Document Architecture. CCDA is a complete architecture used to create documents and template methodologies for medical documents. Primary function of the CCDA is to standardize the content and structure for clinical care summaries.

Medical Electronic Health Records, or EHRs, use stage 2 certified support CCDA. With CCDA, we can do point-to-point import of your patients’ data, sending critical and real-time patient data into DrChrono.

CCDA documents are coded in XML and XHTML (a combination where HTML describes presentation and XML describes content) and are made of these parts:

  1. Header – Enables exchange of clinical documents within and across institutions
  2. Body – Contains the clinical report and can contain an unstructured “blob”, or structured content, in one or more Sections
    • a. Section(s) – May contain Allergies, Meds, Problems, Immunizations, Vital Signs, etc
    • b. Narrative block –  “Human-readable” part of a CDA document.
    • c. Entries (0 to maximum) –  Structured “machine-readable” content for further computer processing.

How to Import Medical Records


Since December 2011, the CCDA has been focused on making CDA Templates (CCD being one of its templates).

CCDA is being adopted by the United States through Meaningful Use efforts, and will make it incrementally easier to achieve international interoperability, and deliver on the promise of persistence, stewardship, potential authentication, context, wholeness and human readability, as originally promised by CDA in 1999.

It is the product of a prodigious effort of the Office of the National Coordinator’s (ONC) Standards and Interoperability (S&I) Framework.

Consider it a single standard for communicating summary of care records and enabling the sharing of clinical care information in the most common care scenarios: inpatient-to-outpatient, primary care physician (PCP)-to-specialist, provider-to-patient and provider-to-ACO. CCDA also facilitates easier EHR-to-EHR transfer of clinical data.


The most important benefit of CCDA is its ability to facilitate user friendly, readable templates and information. Templates allow caregivers to know where to go for the information they are specifically looking for. The Clinical Document Architecture gives context by providing a clinical document that tells a specific story about the care provided to the patient for diagnosis and treatment of their problem.

The CDA supports human readability, for both patient and provider, and it supports video and audio interoperability between systems.

The CDA also promotes a more complete understanding between the data it provides and the statements contained in the document.

  • Supports the exchange of clinical documents between those involved in the care of a patient.
  • Supports the re-use of clinical data for public health reporting, quality monitoring, patient safety and clinical trials.
  • Can be reused in multiple applications.
  • CCDA is a full-blown CDA, providing methodology for the templates in your electronic health record software.
  • Accommodates all medical documents, and may include binary data and other document types.
  • Allows for user-defined fields.
  • Is built in HL7 RIM standard.
  • Enables global inter-operability.


CCDA accommodates more than just summaries and snapshot stories for patients. It provides a methodology for all types of medical documents. It is based on the HL7 Reference Information Model (RIM), but is flexible enough to accommodate user-defined fields (typical HL7). It can store complete documents, binary data and multimedia in its body. It was approved by ANSI in 2010. CDA introduces the concept of incremental semantic interoperability which allows tracking of relationships between elements of care.

The minimal CDA is a small number of XML-encoded metadata fields (such as provider name, document type, document identifier and so on) and a body which can be any commonly-used MIME type such as .pdf, .doc (Microsoft Word) or even a scanned image file. CCDA has two separate components:

  1. Human readable components found in section/text
  2. Machine readable components found in section/entry

CCDA is the Consolidation of CDA Templates to become the Single Source for clinical documents. CDA is in use world-wide. The most popular use is for inter-enterprise information exchange (aka XDS.b and XDR), in such countries as Finland, Greece and Germany and in pilot use in Canada, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Argentina and elsewhere.

CDA is firmly in the plans for many of the nascent US Regional Health Information Organizations and the US Military Health System. The largest single producer of CCDA documents is the Mayo Clinic, which is producing thousands of CDAs every week and when in full production will reach 50,000 notes/week. Mayo sees CDA as a strategic investment in information that will increase in value over time and which can be reused in multiple applications.


“CCDA is a universal sharable health format that all certified EHR vendors can read and write. It has all sorts of health data in it.” ~ Michael Nusimow, CEO & Cofounder at drchrono

Before CCDA, providers trying to implement a specific clinical document were faced with a rabbit hole of cross-referenced materials creating an ever growing, complex web of documentation. CDA, which was until recently known as the Patient Record Architecture (PRA), provides an exchange model for clinical documents (such as discharge summaries and progress notes) – and brings the healthcare industry closer to the realization of an electronic medical record.

CDA documents can be encoded with the full power of the HL7 Reference Information Model (RIM, see below) and controlled vocabulary such as LOINC, SNOMED, ICD, CPT etc. CCDA is clearly the next step in the evolution of interoperability because it allows substantially easier point to point connection. That means you don’t have to go through a post office model like HIE, and it allows for much better patient engagement with human readability of complex data and patterns of data.

When transitioning to DrChrono EHR from another vendor, you will need to export your data. There are a few ways that you can do this, but one easy method is asking your old vendor to export the patients’ medical records via CCDA. You might even be able to do this on your own if it is an option in the EHR. Once you get this data, let your implementation specialist know on the DrChrono team and we would be happy to import this into DrChrono.