ONC tables regulation of Nationwide Health Information Network

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT will not pursue governance of the Nationwide Health Information Network, it revealed at yesterday's meeting of the Healthcare IT Policy Committee. National Coordinator for Health IT Farzad Mostashari, M.D., in a post to the Health IT Buzz blog today, said the decision was made so as "not to hobble" exchange activities already in motion across the industry and the nation.

In May, ONC issued a request for information on such governance. Its goals at the time included improving efficiency for health information exchange among different entities, avoiding potential conflicts between disparate governance structures of state HIEs and guiding the evolution of interoperability standards in the HIE marketplace.

"One concern we heard repeatedly was that the very act of beginning a regulatory process may actually slow the development of trusted exchange at a time when we cannot afford that," Mostashari said.

Deven McGraw, director of the Health Privacy Project at the Center for Democracy and Technology and a co-chair on the HIT Policy Committee, disagreed with the notion that regulation would stifle innovation but said she understood ONC's stance. She mentioned HIPAA as a possible vehicle for providing further guidance, a recommendation ONC Office of Policy and Planning Director Jodi Daniel supported.

"I think that is exactly consistent with what we heard," Daniel said, "and I think that is a path that we will pursue."

As for promotion of trusted exchange, Mostashari said that ONC will "shine a light on good practices" that support successful exchange. He added that ONC will use existing authorities to "provide guidance and tools around specific barriers to interoperability and exchange."

That said, Mostashari also made clear that should systematic problems arise that require regulation, ONC will seek input from the public and stakeholders again.

To learn more:
- read Mostashari's blog post
- listen to the meeting
- check out these slides from the meeting