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ONC Grants Promote HIE Governance Work

April 4, 2013
by David Raths
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The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) has awarded grants to two organizations to continue their work on health information exchange governance.

ONC has awarded $285,000 to DirectTrust and $200,000 to the EHR/HIE Interoperability Workgroup to support their work advancing the governance of health information exchange, said Claudia Williams, director of ONC’s State Health Information Exchange Program, during an April 4 conference call.

Williams noted that last year ONC requested comments about a proposal to create a new set of HIE governance regulations.  The response was that although HIE governance is critically important to reaching interoperability goals, there are so many ongoing activities that stakeholders preferred that ONC lend its weight to those efforts rather than create a new regulatory framework.  With these grants, ONC is continuing its support of both organizations to encourage the continued development and adoption of policies, interoperability requirements, and business practices. Williams urged ONC grantees and other providers to participate in their projects.

David Kibbe, M.D., president and CEO of the nonprofit DirectTrust, said his organization has grown to 45 entities working on policies and procedures to support Direct exchange. It also has developed an accreditation program, launched in November 2012 in partnership with the Electronic Healthcare Network Accreditation Commission (EHNAC). Kibbe said so far 12 health information service providers and certificate authorities are enrolled in the accreditation program.

David Whitlinger, executive director of the New York eHealth Collaborative, which takes a lead role in the EHR/HIE Interoperability Workgroup,said the group was formed in 2011 as statewide HIEs recognized they shared similar set of problems. “We were all found that trying to get EHRs and HIEs connected in a consistent way and to do it inexpensively was difficult,” he said. The group assembled EHR vendors, state HIEs, and HIE vendors to standardize on Direct exchange and query-based exchange. “The goal was to develop technology specs, testing methods and a marketing logo so that we could get to plug-and-play interoperability and market it to the physician community,” Whitlinger said. “The goal is EHRs that are directly interoperable out of the box with the local HIE network.” It has created a set of tech standards and specifications. It has launched a testing program with CCHIT, and expects later this fall to see EHR products carry the logo. The group has grown to 19 states, 20 EHR vendors, and 22 HIE vendors.

“ONC has asked us to take a leadership position in sorting out the complexity of provider directory issues,” Whitlinger said. “We are excited to be teamed up with DirectTrust to help move the national network forward in terms of technical standards and governance.”