HHS deals aimed at jump-starting health IT network

The Health and Human Services Department has awarded three contracts totaling $17.5 million to public-private groups to accelerate the adoption of health IT and the secure portability of health data.

The health IT partnerships will create and evaluate processes for harmonizing health information standards, develop criteria to certify and evaluate health IT products, and develop mechanisms to address variations in state privacy and security practices.

"These contracts are a significant milestone in a broader strategy to spur technical innovation for nationwide sharing of health information and adoption of electronic health records," said David Brailer, HHS' national coordinator for health IT. The work covered by the contracts will set the stage for an Internet-based architecture that will allow secure, timely and accurate exchange of health information among patients and health care professionals.

HHS will award contracts for development of prototypes for a nationwide health information network later this month or in early November.

Contracts were awarded to the following organizations:

  • The American National Standards Institute was awarded a $3.3 million contract to develop a standards harmonization process. The institute, a nonprofit standards-setting organization, will bring together other standards development organizations under the Health Information Technology Standards Panel. The panel will develop, prototype and evaluate a process that will result in widely accepted health IT standards to support interoperability among health care software applications, particularly electronic health records.

  • The Certification Commission for Health Information Technology, another nonprofit organization, was awarded a $2.7 million contract to develop criteria and evaluation processes for certifying electronic health records, as well as the health IT infrastructure or network components through which they would share data. The certification group will provide recommendations for outpatient or ambulatory electronic health record certification criteria by December and develop criteria for those health records by January 2006.

  • The Research Triangle Institute International of Durham, N.C., was awarded a contract for $11.5 million and will establish the Health Information Security and Privacy Collaboration, a partnership of industry experts and the National Governors' Association. It will work with 40 states to assess and develop plans to address variations in organization-level business policies and state laws that affect privacy and security practices that could pose challenges to exchanging health data.

  • Mary Mosquera is a staff writer for Washington Technology's sister publication, Government Computer News.

    About the Author

    Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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