As the NwHIN Exchange transitions from a federal program to a public/private partnership, its pace of growth is accelerating. The new organization, rebranded the eHealth Exchange, has 34 organizations in production now, with six more expected to join by the end of the year, said Mariann Yeager, interim executive director of Healtheway, the organization that is providing the infrastructure and governance to support the exchange of data that eHealth Exchange participants use to further their respective missions. “We had 10 applications last week alone,” Yeager told the Oct. 17 HIT Standards Committee meeting. “We expect to double participation in the next year.”
The NwHIN Exchange went into production in 2009 as a community of exchange partners who share information under a common trust agreement, using a shared set of technical requirements, policies and testing process.
Yeager described Healtheway as a non-profit organization chartered to support the eHealth Exchange and focused on cross-industry collaboration to advance health information exchange implementation.
What started as a pilot effort primarily to share information with federal agencies has seen a dramatic shift, she said. “We are seeing organizations interested in using it as a way to support private- to-private-sector exchange.”
Among the returns on investment already realized through the Exchange efforts are efficiencies realized through multi-party trust agreements and shared infrastructure and governance costs. The Exchange also promises to lessen the burden of testing prior to exchanging with a new partner. Yeager also noted that services that were provided free before by ONC would now have service fees associated with them to ensure the organization’s sustainability.
She said one of Healtheway’s objectives is to remain aligned with the developing national strategy developed by ONC. “The last thing we want to do is to verge away and fragment,” she said. “We seek to unify and assure continuity.”
Healtheway also is partnering with the EHR/HIE Interoperability Work Group (IWG) to establish a harmonized set of implementation specifications and testing requirements. “The synergies are clear,” Yeager said. “It became more evident over time how intertwined the work of the two groups is.”
IWG has already been working with 15 states and 37 EHR and HIE vendors. Together, Healtheway and IWG chose CCHIT as their compliance testing body. CCHIT is partnering with AEGIS.net to provide an open source, automated testing environment that will be available to applicants to practice and prepare for observed testingand contains multiple reference systems for testing conformance andinteroperability.