HHS awards health IT network prototype contracts

The Health and Human Services Department today awarded contracts totaling $18.6 million to four health care and health IT groups to develop prototypes for a nationwide health information network architecture.

The four consortia are led by Accenture LLP Ltd., Computer Sciences Corp., IBM Corp. and Northrop Grumman Corp.

"The effort will help design an information network that will transform our health care system resulting in higher quality, lower costs, less hassle and better care for American consumers," HHS secretary Mike Leavitt said in a statement.

The contracts will move the nation closer to the goal of personal electronic health records by creating a uniform architecture for health care information that can follow consumers throughout their lives.

HHS anticipates that common elements from each prototype will emerge for a network architecture that will enable and spark a market for affordable and easy connectivity and applications for physicians and consumers, said David Brailer, national coordinator for health IT.

"We're starting with a starter set of companies that have demonstrated that they have the capacity to help us learn what we have to do to make this work. We hope that many other technology companies, industry groups and regional projects participate because in the end our goal is to make this broad solution widely available," he said.

Each consortium is a partnership between technology developers and providers in three local health care markets. Each will develop an architecture and a prototype network during the year for secure information sharing among hospitals, laboratories, pharmacies and physicians in the participating markets.

Once created, the architecture design for each of the networks will be placed in the public domain to stimulate others to develop further innovative approaches to implementing health information technology.

The prototypes will test information locator services, patient authentication, security protections and specialized network functions, as well as test the feasibility of large-scale deployment.

These contracts complete the foundation for an interoperable, standards-based network for the secure exchange of health care information.

HHS last month awarded $17.3 million in contracts to harmonize standards, create a process for health IT product certification and assess the variations in state privacy laws.

The four Nationwide Health Information Network Consortia are comprised of the following technology and health organizations:
  • Accenture and its IT partners will work with the Eastern Kentucky Regional Health Community (Kentucky), CareSpark (Tennessee), and West Virginia eHealth Initiative;

  • CSC and its IT partners will work with the Indiana Health Information Exchange; MA-SHARE (Massachusetts); and Mendocino HRE (California). The consortium also includes the eHealth Initiative, a nonprofit group of industry, public health, research and academic organizations; the Markle Foundation's Connecting for Health; the Center for Information Technology Leadership, a health IT research group; and the Regenstrief Institute Inc., a health care research and informatics group at Indiana University.

  • IBM and its IT partners will work with the Taconic Health Information Network and Community (New York), North Carolina Healthcare Information and Communications Alliance (Research Triangle, N.C.) and North Carolina Healthcare Information and Communications Alliance (Rockingham County, N.C.)

  • Northrop Grumman and its IT partners will work with the Santa Cruz Regional Health Information Organization (Santa Cruz, Calif.), HealthBridge (Cincinnati) and University Hospitals Health System (Cleveland).

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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