Next steps for HHS in advancing health IT network are states, RHIOs

In order to advance capabilities for the Nationwide Health Information Network next year, the Health and Human Services Department will pursue contracts for trial implementations that will include state and regional health information organization exchange efforts.

Four contracted groups of health IT and health care organizations have defined standards for interoperability and described architectures for security for their prototypes of the nationwide network. The four groups also have advanced 1,200 functional requirements for what the network needs to be able to do, said John Loonsk, director of interoperability and standards in the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT within HHS.

Next month, the groups will demonstrate their prototype architectures in the context of a software implementation at the next public-private advisory American Health Information Community, he said.

The trial implementations will identify ways for the NHIN groups and state and regional exchanges to work together. The pilots will test connecting electronic health records, adding personal health records to that mix to foster a network of networks, Loonsk said at today's AHIC meeting. A component of the pilot will test connecting the federal health system and state systems to determine what specifically needs to be done next.

"This takes another step toward the network of networks that NHIN will be," Loonsk said.

The National Committee on Vital and Health Statistics, an HHS advisory group, identified 11 high-level functional requirements that the nationwide network should incorporate.

"The NCVHS work will inform the next steps of NHIN activities," Loonsk said.

The high-level functions were distilled from 977 original requirements, said Simon Cohn, NCVHS chairman and associate executive director of the Permanent Federation of Kaiser Permanente.

"High-level functions can be a checklist, so organizations can know they are including requirements to connect to NHIN," Cohn said.

The functional requirements that NCVHS identified include:
  • Certification
  • Authentication and authorization
  • Person identification and location of health information
  • Transport and content standards
  • Data transactions
  • Auditing and logging.
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Mary Mosquera is a staff writer for Washington Technology's affiliate publication, Government Computer News.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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