Standards panel seeks advice on data exchange

By Mary Mosquera
04:07 PM

The federal advisory Health IT Standards Committee is asking for feedback from individuals and organizations experienced in deploying specifications developed for the nationwide health information network (NwHIN) Exchange.

The group also wants to learn about first-hand practice and observations of individuals involved in setting up the required infrastructure and operational use of the NwHIN Exchange specifications or technical descriptions of the requirements.

The NwHIN Exchange is composed of federal agencies and predominantly large organizations that have contracted with the federal government. ONC is seeking a foundation to expand participation in the exchange, which follows comprehensive standards and services to securely share health information through the Internet.

The committee realized that it needs further examination of the NwHIN Exchange specifications and recommended that the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT gather more data and assess industry adoption and the technical descriptions’ operational and administrative complexity by those who have experience with it, even if the technology stack differs from that represented in the exchange specifications.

The public may comment through Dec, 15, and then the standards committee will send ONC its recommendations to help inform decisions about additional NwHIN pilots and specifications development, according to the Nov., 9 announcement.

The standards committee wants comments about which of the NwHIN Exchange specifications that organizations implemented, including for the messaging platform, Web services registry, authorization framework, patient discovery and query for documents.

Over the summer, ONC brought together the NwHIN Power Team within the standards committee to evaluate the specifications developed for the NwHIN Exchange and Direct pilots around their usability and scalability to support nationwide health information exchange and identify what further work may be needed. The Direct Project is a form of secure messaging for simple exchange between providers, providers and labs or providers and patients.

The standards committee is also interested in the reasons why organizations put in place the NwHIN Exchange specifications and if their functional capabilities are adequate for information sharing.

Other questions include:

  • What methods and protocols do you use today for clinical exchange, and what other methods and protocols do you plan to use over the next few years?
  • How easy or difficult were the NwHIN Exchange specifications to understand, interpret, and implement? Compared to other service-oriented implementations you’ve been involved with, was Exchange easier, harder, or about the same level of complexity?
  • What operational and administrative coordination and technical infrastructure have you needed to put in place in order to deploy and operate the Exchange?
  • How many hours of technical time did the project entail before reaching full interoperability?