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Ramping Up Data Exchange

March 25, 2010
by David Raths
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At a meeting of the HIT Standards Committee, ONC outlined the aggressive timeline for NHIN Direct.

NHIN Direct, an offshoot experimental project of the National Health Information Network, whose goal is to draft the specifications and services to address simple, direct communications between healthcare providers, kicked off on March 23. The project is a response to calls for research into more simple ways for basic clinical data exchange using the Internet.

During a March 24 meeting of the HIT Standards Committee, Doug Fridsma, MD, PhD, acting director of the ONC’s Office of Interoperability and Standards, described both the types of use cases the project will address and its aggressive timeline.

The core use cases will include simple movement of patient data, including a primary care provider referring a patient to a specialist and including a summary care record and the specialist sending summary care information back to the referring provider. Another is for laboratories sending lab results to an ordering provider.

Extended use cases include hospitals providing patients with an electronic clinical summary at discharge or providing quality measure reports to CMS.

Fridsma said the project, which will be open-source and developed through a transparent, collaborative process, is being developed with a sense of urgency that all providers feel about reaching meaningful use. “We hope to have draft specifications done in two months and deploy some early implementations by October 2010,” he added.

John Halamka, MD, MS, vice chair of the HIT Standards Committee, said the NHIN Direct effort will not be competing with nor will it slow down other data exchange efforts. “There are many use cases that the current data exchanges don’t address,” said Halamka, CIO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School. “How does the two-doctor practice that wants to exchange data with another two-doctor practice if they aren’t part of an HIE today?”

In a Q&A session, it was clear that there was still confusion, even among committee members, about the concept of NHIN Direct. Some HIT Standards Committee members questioned whether the new effort might lead to confusion about how NHIN Direct fits in with ongoing HIE efforts and cause providers to hesitate to make sure what they are doing is not superseded later. But both Halamka and Fridsma said the project is a laboratory experiment to focus on transport issues. It is not set up to create new interoperability standards but rather to test whether tools can be created to help certain types of customers leverage existing standards and policies.

For more information or to participate, go to: www.nhindirect.org.

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