Groups pitch health info plan

Common Framework Group proposal

More than a dozen major information technology and health organizations have proposed development of an Internet-based National Health Information Network to facilitate exchange of health care information nationwide while at the same time protecting patient privacy.

Backed by the Markle Foundation in New York and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Connecting for Health filed a "Common Framework" with 13 groups:

The American Health Information Management Association

The American Medical Informatics Association

The American National Standards Institute

Healthcare Informatics Standards Board

The Center for Information Technology Leadership

The Connecting for Health Steering Group

The eHealth Initiative

The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society

Health Level Seven

HIMSS EHR Vendor Association

Internet2

The Liberty Alliance Project

The National Alliance for Health Information Technology

The Common Framework Group released the proposal following a request from Dr. David Brailer, head of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONCHIT) at the Department of Health and Human Services on Jan. 19. ONCHIT said in a statement on its Web site that it had received "hundreds of responses" in response to a Request for Information issued last November on how to develop the national health network. ONCHIT officials plan to review the responses and expect to release a summary report in the next few months.

According to the Common Framework proposal, the National Health Information Network should be built around the Internet without the need for "new wires" and should rely on existing and upcoming non-proprietary standards for data content and interchange, such as the HL7 standard endorsed by HHS and many providers and vendors.

The Common Framework Group advocated that a so-called Health Information Environment should be built around a decentralized approach to health care information, with such data remaining in place where it is captured. The group said that patient identification should be based on standardized methodologies but out of privacy concerns "without a mandated national unique health identifier."

To assist health care providers to access patient records, the Common Framework group in its proposal to ONCHIT called for development of a new Record Locater Service to help locate records housed throughout the decentralized information environment.

Standards and policies for the HIE and the NHIN should be set by a new Standards and Policy Entity, the Common Framework group said in its proposal. The entity -- acting and be a public-private collaborative, funded by HHS and commercial entities -- would set technical and privacy standards, the Common Framework Group said in its proposal to ONCHIT.

Dr. Blackford Middleton, chairman of the Center for Information Technology Leadership in Boston, said development of a standardized, national health information exchange could result in savings of about $77 billion a year, or five per cent of the nation's annual health care bill. Health care vendors and hospital CIOs interviewed by FCW last year said achieving those savings will require an estimated $500 billion to $700 billion investment in health care IT systems over the next decade.

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