ONC plans underlie health information exchange initiatives in 2013

Calendar year 2013 will bring a fresh round of activities aimed at tapping the full potential of health information exchange, according to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC). "Rules of the road" for information exchange will also be established in coordination with other governance groups, according to ONC.

ONC has announced a funding opportunity to help it collaborate with organizations already involved in governance activities for health information exchange to increase interoperability, decrease the cost and complexity of sharing patient data, and ensure privacy and security.

The cooperative agreement will enable ONC to work with others that have good governing efforts underway to encourage the continued development and adoption of policies, interoperability requirements, and business practices that will make nationwide health information exchange easier to perform and, in doing so, proliferate, according to Farzad Mostashari, MD, the national health IT coordinator.

The goals are to facilitate directed “push” and/or query-based exchange and solve operational challenges that are slowing adoption and use of either model of exchange; and identify potential opportunities to incorporate these solutions in national policy through certification of electronic health records (EHRs), nationally adopted standards, incorporation into federal policy or additional governance activities, the funding announcement said.

In September, ONC decided not to issue federal regulations around rules of the road for the nationwide health information network based on comments it received but instead support existing good governing efforts that other organizations have started to advance widespread exchange.

“The overarching goal for ONC remains that the information follow the patient where and when it is needed, across organizational, vendor and geographic boundaries,” Mostashari explained in a Dec. 20 blog, adding that it “will take all of us to be successful.”

Cracking the obstacles to health information exchange is becoming more urgent because it is a critical aspect of the meaningful use of EHRs in Stage 2.

Among the activities outlined by Mostashari:

  • In January, ONC will host an open listening session on governance of health information exchange so that a wide range of organizations can describe their priorities and concerns.
  • On Jan. 29, the Health IT Policy Committee and HIT Standards Committee will conduct a public hearing to further explore the current state of health information exchange, including the practices that have enabled or impeded it; exchange needs of providers as they take on new payment models; policies and practices of entities currently providing governance to different types of exchange communities; and approaches to strengthen governance at multiple levels.
  • In the first quarter of 2013, the National e-health Collaborative, through its cooperative agreement with ONC, will bring together key stakeholder governance groups, which establish policies and practices for a given community of exchange partners, to work throughout the coming year to identify common problems in the governance of health information exchange and the best ways to solve them.
  • ONC plans to publish a series of governance guidelines for effective and trusted electronic health information exchange and launch a monitoring program to make sure that the governance goals are being addressed.

ONC will provide a technical assistance call on Jan. 7 for applicants interested in applying for the funding opportunity. Applications are due Feb. 4.