NwHIN Comment Period Extended

June 29 Deadline for Feedback on Voluntary HIE Standards
NwHIN Comment Period Extended

The deadline to submit reactions to preliminary plans for voluntary national standards, including privacy and security guidelines, for health information exchanges has been extended to June 29.

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A request for information seeking feedback was posted in the Federal Register in May.

After it reviews comments, the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT will draft the Nationwide Health Information Network Governance Rule, which was mandated under the HITECH Act, part of the economic stimulus package (see: Feedback Sought on HIE Rules of Road).

The proposed rule would create an NwHIN "brand" that health information exchanges and others could voluntarily earn, much like the Energy Star program that signifies energy efficiency levels of many products, says Farzad Mostashari, who heads ONC (see: Voluntary HIE Standards in Works).

Statewide, regional or local health information exchanges, integrated delivery systems, electronic health record system vendors and others could apply to receive recognition as complying with the NwHIN standards. That could help pave the way for the national exchange of medical records.

Voluntary program

Privacy and information exchange experts have already begun debating the pros and cons of voluntary standards for HIEs (see: Voluntary HIE Rules: Early Reaction). For example, Andrew VanZee, the statewide health IT director in Indiana who oversees efforts to link five HIEs to share data statewide, says the proposed voluntary NwHIN program "is a good first step. Voluntary compliance gets the early adopters and innovators on board."

But VanZee believes an eventual shift to mandatory compliance could prove necessary. "It will most likely take mandatory compliance to get all organizations to ensure that the standards are met."

The request for information poses a series of 66 questions. For example, it asks for feedback on ways to obtain patient consent for the exchange of their information. And it asks whether there should ever be exceptions to a requirement for exchanging only data that's been encrypted.

To submit comments, visit a federal website devoted to regulations.

About the Author

Howard Anderson

Howard Anderson

Former News Editor, ISMG

Anderson was news editor of Information Security Media Group and founding editor of HealthcareInfoSecurity and DataBreachToday. He has more than 40 years of journalism experience, with a focus on healthcare information technology issues. Before launching HealthcareInfoSecurity, he served as founding editor of Health Data Management magazine, where he worked for 17 years, and he served in leadership roles at several other healthcare magazines and newspapers.

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