Doctors need reasons to join health exchanges: HHS official

The NHIN is providing tools for secure exchange

The networks being developed to exchange patient medical information must give doctors who join them a positive return on investment for participating, a  senior official said today.

Low cost of entry is important to participation in the Nationwide Health Information Network (NHIN) and other health exchanges, said David Riley, the NHIN Connect initiative lead for the Federal Health Architecture Program at the Health and Human Services Department .

“Electronic Data Exchange must not add any new barriers to entry, must not add any more work for the physician [or] change of process or workflow, and must be near zero cost,” Riley said in an online presentation offered on demand by Virtual FOSE. The presentation was sponsored by 1105 Media, the parent company of Federal Computer Week.

Digital data exchange “must give physicians a positive ROI. There must be a demonstrable incentive of saving time and money to secure adoption,” Riley said.

Six federal agencies participated in NHIN trial demonstrations in 2008, and the focus in 2009 is on limited production, Riley said.

The goal is to develop and deploy six to eight additional services for the network in the next phase, he said.

This year, federal officials are adding pseudonymization tools to the NHIN, he said.

These tools replace patients' names for the purpose of protecting their privacy. The tools also allow individuals with authorized access to re-identify the patient if necessary; for example, a patient suspected to be at risk of exposure to a disease may need to be identified so he or she can notified to seek treatment.

HHS has been developing the NHIN for several years.  With $2 billion from the economic stimulus law for health information exchange, HHS officials are considering the next steps for the NHIN.

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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