Monday, June 2, 2008

Making Sense of National Healthcare IT

Avance Health Analysis

Recent news of HITSP's submissions to The Community (AHIC) June meeting, prompted a reader to ask: How do the various national healthcare initiatives (AHIC, HITSP, HHS, CCHIT and NHIN) fit together?

Is the relationship between these organizations Rube Goldberg-esque? Or is there some more coherent design?

The mission of American Health Information Community ("The Community" or AHIC) is to provide "input and recommendations to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on how to make health records digital and interoperable, and assure that the privacy and security of those records are protected in a smooth, market-led way." AHIC is presently reorganizing itself to ensure its viability beyond the term of the current administration, by establishing "AHIC 2.0" as a sustainable public-private organization. AHIC is the focal point for guidance to HHS on priorities for interoperability and develops the use cases for these priorities.

The Healthcare Information Technology Standards Panel (HITSP) mission is to "harmonize and integrate standards that will meet clinical and business needs for sharing information among organizations and systems." HITSP takes its guidance on priorities and use case definition from AHIC and proposes standards (like those to be presented today at the AHIC June 2008 meeting) to the HHS Secretary.

The HHS Secretary can accept the recommendations which starts the clock on a one year cycle of testing and implementation. At the end of this cycle, the HHS Secretary can choose to "recognize" these standards. Once standards are recognized, by Executive Order, they are incorporated into new Federal Systems and Healthcare Contracts.

Recognition of these standards also serves as input to the Certification Commission for Healthcare Information Technology (CCHIT). CCHIT is a recognized certification body (RCB) for Electronic Health Records (EHR) with the goal of accelerating EHR adoption. CCHIT establishes its roadmap and criteria for Electronic Health Records based in part on the recognized standards from the HHS Secretary.

These recognized interoperability standards are also incorporated by the Nationwide Health Information Network (NHIN), a network of networks promoting Health Information Exchange.

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