Federal health IT office extends study of state information sharing

By Paul McCloskey
12:00 AM

NEW ORLEANS -- The Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) for Health Information Technology has signed a contract to extend a project to identify the best practices for successful state-level health information exchanges.

The $800,000 contract would fund for an additional year the work of the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA), the eHealth Initiative, and the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society to determine effective ways health information can be shared between providers at the state level.

Robert Kolodner, interim director of ONC, said the project by the three organizations comes "at a critical time for engaging the states in a variety of activities for advancing the health IT agenda." He called the new contract "a vehicle for making that happen."

The contract will continue work by AHIMA's Foundation of Research and Education to develop tools for state-level information exchange. The previous study, which involved input from nine states, yielded a "development workbook" for assembling state networks, said Linda Kloss, the chief executive officer of AHIMA, an association of health information management executives.

In the coming year, the project will take "deep dives" into the areas of governance, operations and financial sustainability, Kloss said. The project wants to move beyond merely identifying principles for governance to being able to "articulate a number of models" for state level information exchange, she said. The research also will delve into ways to involve "organizations who choose to be service providers" in emerging state-level networks, Kloss said.

The project will not target best practices in the area of privacy and patient consent, which is the subject of other ONC projects, Kloss said. "But it's important that we align with that work."

In picking best practices, "there is no one size fits all," Kloss said. Instead, she envisioned many "points of brilliance," where local conditions combine with good management to produce results. "We want to bring those out."