A half-dozen organizations on Monday were approved by the Department of Health and Human Services as the inaugural batch of candidates to participate as qualified health information networks as part of ONC’s Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement.
During a Feb. 13 event at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, six healthcare organizations were approved to implement TEFCA as prospective QHINs: CommonWell Health Alliance, eHealth Exchange, Epic TEFCA Interoperability Services, Health Gorilla, Kno2, and KONZA National Network.
In a blog post, National Coordinator for Health IT Micky Tripathi recognized those organizations, “for their willingness to voluntarily step up and meet the rigorous TEFCA eligibility requirements, terms and conditions of TEFCA participation, and commitment to a 12-month go-live timeline.”
Tripathi noted that, together, the six candidates “have networks that cover most U.S. hospitals, tens of thousands of providers, and process billions of annual transactions across all fifty states.
This is a significant step for the U.S. health system and one that will advance interoperability at scale for patients, health care providers, hospitals, public health agencies, health insurers, and other authorized health care stakeholders.”
But as the onboarding process begins, there’s hard work ahead, he added. “Strong privacy and security protections are required of QHINs and their expanded connectivity will help improve the quality, safety, affordability, efficiency, and equitability of health care across the country,” he said.
For its part, Epic – which applied for QHIN status through its subsidiary, Epic TEFCA Interoperability Services – sees big potential benefits for its customers, including 2,700 hospital and 70,000 clinics. But also sees the goals of the 21st Century Cures Act as a continuation of work it’s already been doing.
“Providers in the Epic community have led the nation in health information exchange for more than 15 years,” said Matt Doyle, interoperability software development Lead at Epic, in a statement. “Our support of HHS on this historic milestone will expand information sharing and create a single on-ramp toward universal interoperability.”
eHealth Exchange is also looking forward to this new milestone in its interoperability efforts.
“We are thrilled to move forward in the QHIN designation process and begin the testing phase,” said Jay Nakashima, executive director of eHealth Exchange. “Secretary Becerra’s recognition is a testament to eHealth Exchange’s efforts to support electronic health data sharing for the past 13 years. We will continue to support the health data sharing needs of the federal agencies and other participants in our public-private network.”
Commonwell Health Alliance, which exchanges some 30 million documents weekly and serves more than 34,000 healthcare organizations caring for 200 million people, said its wide footprint and Record Locator Service position it well for success nationwide.
Its existing network capabilities are “well positioned to support the technical objectives of TEFCA and the industry as a whole,” said Executive Director Paul L Wilder in a statement. “We congratulate all the other prospective QHINs and look forward to working with them, the ONC, and the Recognized Coordinating Entity to reach those goals and to continue improving health data exchange for the entire country.”
Kno2, meanwhile, is “eager to support America’s urgent need for nationwide interoperability and to help improve patient outcomes, address provider burnout, and eradicate financial burdens across healthcare today,” said Therasa Bell, the company’s co-founder, president, and chief technology officer. “By becoming a QHIN, Kno2 can leverage its expertise and capabilities to help ensure TEFCA is successful, and providers, patients and health plans have seamless access to the right patient health information when and where it is needed.”
And Health Gorilla officials said they’re confident they can help meet the stringent requirements for the wider and more streamlined data exchange promised by TEFCA, and the clinical benefits that will enable.d
“With the application approval, we can confidently march forward together to advance national health information sharing with the highest standards of patient privacy, data security, and network governance,” said CEO Steve Yaskin in a statement.
“We look forward to entering the implementation process with the goal of achieving the first QHIN-to-QHIN exchange this year,” added Dr. Steven Lane, the company’s chief medical officer.
And at the roundtable, KONZA CEO Dr. Laura McCrary, who also serves as executive director of the Kansas Health Information Network, spoke of the value of nationwide information exchange.
“While today is cause for celebration, our work on TEFCA has really just begun,” said Tripathi. “We look forward to welcoming additional QHIN applicants in the coming months and for the network to become fully operational.”
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