ONC makes NHIN materials available on the Web

By Diana Manos
10:37 AM

The Office of the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology has released information online to help organizations participate in the Nationwide Health Information Network. (NHIN).

The materials include technical, data content and use case specifications, as well as testing materials and trust agreements developed during the NHIN trial implementations.

HHS officials said more information about these materials and current and upcoming NHIN activities will be featured at the Health Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) Annual Conference April 4-8 in Chicago. The sessions will be held Sunday, April 5 (titled "Lighting up the NHIN: What it Means for You") and Tuesday, April 7 ("Plugging into the NHIN.")

At the Fifth NHIN Forum, held Dec. 15-16, 2008 in Washington, D.C., ONC officials held a public interoperability demonstration that included the 19 participants in the NHIN Cooperative, including health information exchanges, federal agencies, other key stakeholders and ONC officials.

According to the ONC, the forum showcased the work of the NHIN Cooperative, including experiences and lessons learned from the trial Implementations. The demonstration had been scheduled to use real patient data, but due to unresolved privacy issues, fictitious patient records were used instead.

Stakeholders have made it clear that technology will not hold up the NHIN's progress. Rather, they feel the sticking points lie in social agreements – how to protect information, and who is liable if there is a breach during the exchange of information.

The recently passed stimulus package includes more than $30 billion in net Medicare and Medicaid bonuses to help advance healthcare IT adoption, as well as measures to tighten healthcare IT security. Under the new law, healthcare providers and businesses that operate now as business associates under HIPAA will be required to operate as covered entities.