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HHS Updates Framework to Advance Interoperability


Interoperability is a key piece in creating a more unified healthcare industry.


The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) today issued a second draft of the Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement (TEFCA) to support the full interoperability of health information from network-to-network.

Along with the second draft of the TEFCA, HHS also released a second draft of the Minimum Required terms and conditions (MRCTs) for trusted exchange and a first draft of a Qualified Health Information Network (QHIN) technical framework. Together, these documents will form the basis of a Common Agreement that aims to create baseline technical and legal requirements for sharing electronic health information on a nationwide scale across different networks.

The draft of TEFCA is designed to scale electronic health information exchange nationwide and helps ensure that health information networks, healthcare providers, health plans, individuals and stakeholders have secure access to their electronic health information whenever and wherever it is needed.

Changes in the TEFCA included updating the purposes for which information can be exchanged, adding a “push-based” method of data exchange, adding a technical framework for QHINs and extending timelines for participating stakeholders and entities to implement the changes required by the Common Agreement.

HHS’ ONC focused on three goals when developing the TEFCA draft: provide a single “on-ramp” to nationwide connectivity, ensure electronic information securely follows you when and where it is needed and support nationwide scalability for network connectivity.

“We expect that the implementation of the (TEFCA) will bring us all that much closer to achieving the administration’s goals of nationwide interoperability,” said Don Rucker, M.D., national coordinator for health information technology.

Updates considered more than 200 comments that were received on the initial draft.

ONC will maintain the Trusted Exchange Framework and issued a funding opportunity notice to select a recognized coordinating entity to be awarded funds to develop, update, implement and maintain the Common Agreement.

“The future Common Agreement, made possible by the steps we take today, will provide the governance necessary to meet the interoperability demands of diverse stakeholders, including patients, healthcare providers and health plans,” said Rucker.

The public comment period on the Trusted Exchange Framework, MRTCs and QHIN technical framework ends on June 17, 2019 — the same day the application period for the notice of funding opportunity ends.

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