Health IT coordinator to harmonize record standards, network

Health data exchange has a vibrant future, says Dr. David Blumenthal

The National Coordinator for Health Information Technology said today he intends to “harmonize” certified electronic health records standards within the National Health Information Network (NHIN).

“We are working on continuing the momentum of the NHIN and Connect," the NHIN software, Dr. David Blumenthal, who is based at the Health and Human Services Department, said at a Connect users conference today.

Blumenthal, who started work as national health IT coordinator in March, has been charged with recommending standards for “meaningful use” of certified Electronic Health Records under the economic stimulus law. The law provides financial incentives to doctors and hospitals who meaningfully use such record systems.

One of the criteria for meaningful use is sharing patient data within a health information exchange system, most likely the NHIN, Blumenthal said. NHIN is a network-of-networks patient data exchange system developed under the Bush administration that is currently being used by the Veterans Administration and Social Security Administration, among others.

“Given the federal investment in health IT, and the definition of meaningful use, it is clear there is a vibrant future for the NHIN,” Blumenthal said. “Our hope is that it will support health information exchange and meaningful use at the federal, state and local levels.”

Blumenthal said his office is working on standards and technical requirements for meaningful use that are to be “harmonized” with the NHIN. “NHIN can provide a path for meaningful use,” he said.

Also at the conference, Aneesh Chopra, the Obama administration’s chief technology officer, spoke of his experiences in his former position as Virginia’s CTO when he was involved in demonstrating MedVirginia’s trial participation in the NHIN. MedVirginia is a state-level health information exchange and can serve as a “centerpiece” example of how states can participate in the NHIN, Chopra said.

Chopra also encouraged providers to consider their broadband needs in health information exchange and to partner with the Obama administration’s efforts to expand broadband services under the economic stimulus law.

Health care providers such as doctors, hospitals and health clinics must ensure that when the time comes for exchanging data, they are not left out of broadband infrastructures, he said.

“Make sure health care is a part of broadband,” Chopra said.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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