On January 5, 2018, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) released a draft Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement (TEFCA), outlining a common set of principles for trusted exchange of health data and interoperability between health information networks (HINs) and proposing a Common Agreement aimed at operationalizing the principles for data exchange in an effort to drive interoperability. ONC released the draft framework in compliance with provisions of the 21st Century Cures Act, which was enacted in December 2016.
The draft framework is part of an effort “to scale interoperability nationwide by providing a single ‘on-ramp’ to allow all types of healthcare stakeholders to join any health information network they choose and be able to participate in nationwide exchange, regardless of what health IT developer they use, health information exchange or network they contract with, or where the patients’ records are located.”
Comments on the draft framework are due to ONC by February 20, 2018. ONC will post comments on its website. ONC will consider comments on the draft framework as it develops a final TEFCA product, which will be posted on the ONC website and published in the Federal Register.
TEFCA is part of a broader set of directives for HIT information sharing laid out in Section 4003 of the 21st Century Cures Act, wherein ONC is directed to “develop or support a trusted exchange framework, including a common agreement among health information networks nationally,” which may include:
ONC has proposed to use a an open and competitive Funding Opportunity Agreement (FOA) in Spring 2018 to select a single, private Recognized Coordinating Entity (RCE) to oversee all such data transfer. The RCE will work with existing HINs on technical and governance requirements and will have an enforcement capacity. The RCE will work closely with ONC to develop a set of minimum required terms and conditions for trusted exchange, including common authentication processes, and core sets of organizational and operational policies that enable the exchange of health information.
Importantly, the draft framework explains that “while the proposed Trusted Exchange Framework aligns with [the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)] requirements, it also specifies terms and conditions to enable broader exchange of health information.”
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