More Work Prescribed for Medical Info Network

By Patrick Hoffman  |  Posted 2007-05-25

Federal health agencies plan to reject proposed designs for the Nationwide Health Information Network, an initiative that would allow medical professionals, hospitals, laboratories and pharmacies to share information in real time.

After reviewing proposals submitted in January by Accenture, Computer Science Corp., IBM and Northrop Grumman, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information and part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declared them insufficient. The agencies decided to take portions from each proposal and carry them into the final version, ONCHIT officials said.

New RFPs (requests for proposals) will be issued in the next 14 days and the agency expects to award a contract this summer.

The original RFP, issued in November of 2005, asked prospective contractors to develop a prototype for the nationwide network.

Accentures submission developed both common language and data standards to integrate information across the healthcare system on national, regional and provider levels, while CSC built its prototype on a common framework for health information exchange. This leveraged existing health industry infrastructure without requiring new networks, applications, hardware, databases or a central operator.

IBMs design featured a standards-based system that is able to connect information and allow for secure health information to be exchanged across various healthcare networks.

Northrop Grummans model featured a consent registry, which is a facility that allows a patient to control what information is exchanged, as well as a terminology translation—a tool that is able to translate information so that the user receives information in a way that can be incorporated and processed with their own systems.

"We were extremely pleased with the products we got from the first years prototype architecture work and we are going to be using parts of each approach moving forward, as has been the plan," Dr. John Loonsk, director of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technologys Office of Interoperability and Standards, told eWEEK.

Moving forward, HHS and ONCHIT will engage both state and local health information exchanges that will be the networks that will help make up the NHIN.

"We expect that the successful applicants will be state and local health information exchanges that have an open governance process, have established trust with the organizations involved in health in their communities, have engaged consumers and competing provider organizations and have, or have access to, capable business and technical services," Loonsk said.

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