ONC to seek feedback on NHIN Exchange governance structure

In preparation for expanding the Nationwide Health Information Network's NHIN Exchange beyond federal agencies and their contractors and grantees, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology is developing governance rules for private-sector participation.

ONC is planning to issue a request for information in August, seeking public comments on how to shape the governance structure, Government Health IT reports. A proposed rule will follow early next year before ONC finalizes the rule in the summer of 2011, said Mary Jo Deering, senior policy advisor in the ONC Office of Policy and Planning at a Health IT Policy Committee meeting last Friday."Without governance, the NHIN can't expand and grow beyond the current specific category of participants that are limited by legal guidance," Deering explained.

While states that are building out health information exchanges have welcomed providers and technology vendors to share electronic transactions, a problem arises when those HIEs link up with the NHIN Exchange. "We need to give them a process and conditions for docking, and once you go down that route a series of legal and policy questions come up," national health IT coordinator Dr. David Blumenthal said at the same meeting, according to Government Health IT.

"The [HHS] general counsel has ruled that they can't do much unless we help them do it. They have no framework for doing that now, and they have no legal authority or mechanism to do that," Blumenthal said.

ONC's rule likely will address when when patient consent is needed, the degree of transparency required, business and legal requirements, identity verification and technical specifications. Still to be determined, Deering said, is whether compliance will be mandatory for NHIN Exchange participants.

For greater detail:
- read this Government Health IT story