HIMSS, EHRA urge ONC to tap existing models for Trusted Exchange Framework

Two health IT groups are calling for the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT to use existing private sector interoperability models as the agency finalizes guidelines for trusted data exchange.

The ONC is currently developing a Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement required under the 21st Century Cures Act to facilitate health data interoperability. The agency already kicked off the initiative with a stakeholder meeting on July 24, and officials have asked stakeholders to submit comments on the framework by Friday, Aug. 25.

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In comments submitted this week, HIMSS and the Electronic Health Record Association pushed for ONC to build on the work already undertaken by private sector frameworks like DirectTrust, CommonWell and eHealth Exchange. EHRA’s letter (PDF), signed by executives at several major EHR vendors like Cerner and Epic, urged ONC to develop “a set of core principles that enable meta-governance” rather than undercut “evolving and proven models now in place.”

“Such nonproductive disruption would lead to wasted investments in a time of constrained resources, slow current progress, and send a message that industry investments in interoperability are perennially at risk to changing policy priorities,” the group wrote.

Similarly, HIMSS pointed to existing collaboration between private sector trust frameworks, downplaying the “common misconception” that those networks are unwilling to work with one another.

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“ONC should focus on identifying and facilitating a sufficient set of private sector trust agreements and facilitate coordination where needed rather than specifying a single overarching framework and eliminating variations across existing agreements,” the letter stated.

Both groups also emphasized the need to make the Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement voluntary. EHRA argued that nonadherence “should not be considered de facto information blocking,” while HIMSS hinted that even with a voluntary approach, government incentives would play an important role.