Health IT czar issues health network RFI

The Health and Human Services Department is looking to industry for help on electronic health records and health systems interoperability.

"With the exception of a few isolated regional projects, the United States does not currently have meaningful health information interoperability capabilities," said Dr. David Brailer, the national health IT coordinator.

Brailer posted a Federal Register request for information today on how to achieve interoperable health e-records and other technologies.

"Interoperability is essential in using health IT to improve the quality and efficiency of care in the United States," the RFI said. "It is necessary for compiling the complete experience of a patient's care, maintaining a patient's personal health records and ensuring that complete health information is accessible to clinicians as the patient moves through various health care settings."

Beyond the patient records, Brailer's request pointed to the importance of systems in assuring "cost-effective and timely data collection for bio-surveillance, quality measurement and clinical research."

HHS calls the collective array of these components the National Health Information Network. The RFI is the starting point for defining the government's role in NHIN, what it would take to field it and a timeline for its creation. The RFI posits 24 multipart questions to get comments from the public, industry and academia.

Standards bodies such as Health Level 7 and the American National Standards Institute have made progress in setting standards for the exchange of health data. And HHS and other federal agencies have advanced the adoption of standards through the Consolidated Health Informatics, Public Health Information Network and National Electronic Disease Surveillance System. With HHS participation, HL7 has also created a functional model and standards for health e-records.

Brailer's office will hold a NHIN conference Dec. 6. The responses to the RFI are due Jan. 18.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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