Nationwide Health Information Network (NHIN): Background & Scope
“The Nationwide Health Information Network (NHIN) is being developed to provide a secure, nationwide, interoperable health information infrastructure that will connect providers, consumers, and others involved in supporting health and healthcare. This critical part of the national health IT agenda will enable health information to follow the consumer, be available for clinical decision making, and support appropriate use of healthcare information beyond direct patient care so as to improve health.”
CONNECT is an interface to reach the NHIN. Back about the middle of last year, the project was renamed but myself I still think of the CONNECT name too. The government's plan was that a private sector organization would eventually take control of the initiative. That didn't happen, so two former CONNECT staff members in the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology recently formed the Alembic Foundation to continue development work and promote Aurion.
Government CONNECT Project Gets Rebranded–Two Former ONC Staff Members Formed Alembic Foundation To Continue Development Now Named Aurion
You do not need the CONNECT protocol to connect to the NHIN and many have developed their own interfaces. As you can read from the clip below some providers are already sharing information between themselves. Bon Secours Hospital system is using the system to transmit and receive information from Social Security for disability claims and to get benefit information from Medicaid and Medicare so there’s a lot of potential here.
With all the expense of building HIEs, which is a lot of money, it seems that the NHIN is both cost effective and can also work with HIE protocols so it works all the way around and I think it lacks awareness as you also have retail HIE folks owned by insurance companies who “sell” their services for connectivity. The key here is to have the interface to connect working properly and then you are on your way to sharing information.
“Some community and state health information exchanges have also connected with the NwHIN exchange, the FHA chief pointed out. These HIEs, like other providers on the NwHIN exchange, can communicate with any other provider that has exchange privileges, not just federal agencies. Thompson said some private-sector providers are trading information with each other through.”
The Virtual Electronic Lifetime Record (VLER) program of the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs have their pilot going with 11 VA medical centers up and and running with exchanging records. It’s been a little quiet as everyone is working on interfaces to get there. Again when you look at the cost of the HIEs and have one big network that could do all the connectivity with just other members being able to connect…this makes sense to me. BD
$91 Million Prime Contract Awarded to Support Medical Record Sharing Veterans Affairs Beneficiaries–VLER-Lifetime Virtual Electronic Record Program– VA and DOD
More than 500 hospitals and 4,000 physician practices and clinics are participating in the Nationwide Health Information Network (NwHIN) exchange, according to Lauren Thompson, program director of the Federal Health Architecture (FHA) program in the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC).
Some community and state health information exchanges have also connected with the NwHIN exchange, the FHA chief pointed out. These HIEs, like other providers on the NwHIN exchange, can communicate with any other provider that has exchange privileges, not just federal agencies. Thompson said some private-sector providers are trading information with each other through the NwHIN.
Just as many electronic health record vendors have embedded the Direct secure messaging protocol into their applications, some have also added the ability to connect to the NwHIN. "We have 16 or 18 technology partners participating in the exchange," Thompson said.
However, not all of these use the FHA's CONNECT gateway to link to the NwHIN exchange; some have developed their own interfaces. FHA created the CONNECT gateway in 2008-2009 and is continuing to refine it through a private contractor. But Thompson noted that her office would like to encourage more participation by the open-source community in upgrading the CONNECT code. There has been discussion at FHA about appointing a custodial agent to take charge of making the code available to the community.