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Interoperability Key in EHNAC Trusted Exchange Accreditation Program

In collaboration with other industry stakeholders, the EHNAC Trusted Exchange Accreditation Program aligns with the 21st Century Cures Act.

ehnac trusted exchange accreditation program interoperability

Source: Thinkstock

By Elizabeth Snell

- WEDI, SAFE-BioPharma Association, LLC, eHI, and eP3 Foundation are collaborating with the Electronic Healthcare Network Accreditation Commission (EHNAC) to launch a Trusted Exchange Accreditation Program (TEAP) to further improve healthcare data exchange and interoperability efforts.

The program will focus on assuring identify verification and authentication of stakeholders that will utilize the “digital exchange highway,” EHNAC said in a statement. Blockchain, GDPR, cloud, and other underlying enabling technologies will also be supported.

Additionally, the program will align with ONC’s endorsement of the 21st Century Cures Act and the Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement (TEFCA). Identity verification, authentication, and privacy/security frameworks and best practices will be key focal points in the new program.

“We invite the healthcare industry to join us in working together to establish this important new accreditation program that will continue the much-needed focus on interoperability as well as assure a trusted environment where privacy and security requirements are maintained,” EHNAC Executive Director Lee Barrett stated. “The formation of this industry collaboration leveraging many of the excellent frameworks and best practices already deployed is an important first step in making this a reality.”

Healthcare stakeholders, such as health information networks (HINs), health information exchanges (HIEs), accountable care organizations (ACOs), data registries, payers, and providers will ideally all be able to gain third-party accreditation.  

WEDI President and CEO Charles Stellar explained that the program aligns with WEDI efforts in facilitating secure and trusted data exchange through enabling technologies, such as blockchain.

EP3 Foundation CEO Marsali Hancock added that all organizations entrusted with protecting information should participate.

“The Trusted Exchange Accreditation Program enables new data paradigms, accredited by organizations already known and trusted, to solve and resolve the traditional roadblocks to interoperability and consumer empowerment while, at the same time, addressing the brand new regulatory requirements like GDPR,” Hancock said.

A steering committee will be formed next, EHNAC stated. Ten to 15 public private healthcare stakeholders in numerous sectors and specialties will be included.

The first draft of TEFCA was released in January 2018, and was met with widespread support. The framework was designed to streamline patient health data access and exchange per provisions of the 21st Century Cures Act.

However, some organizations expressed concern with how HIEs would need to need to modify their contractual relationships with participating organizations. The necessary changes would support provisions such as permitted disclosures of health information by qualified health information networks (QHINs).

Colorado Regional Health Information Organization (CORHIO) Chief Operating Officer (COO) Kate Horle previously told EHRIntelligence.com that the TEFCA participation agreement changes would likely be time-consuming and could lead to many complications.

“For me to go back to one of our bigger partner systems and say we’re going to have to rebuild your entire agreement — opening that can of worms could take years,” she said, adding that clarification on changes HIEs would need to make to contractual agreements would be helpful.

“Am I going to have to go to every one of my participants in the next year and change these participant agreements?” Horle stated. “Are these participant agreement changes only going to be affected going forward, which creates disparities between the ways the data will be shared between new and old? For us, that’ll be a really interesting conundrum.”

ONC has been making efforts though to further support TEFCA attestation. The agency announced a proposed rule in March 2018 that would update the Health IT Certification Program to support TEFCA adoption.

Information blocking will be clarified in the proposed rule, and “the voluntary certification of health IT for use by pediatric healthcare providers” would also be advanced.

“The rulemaking would also modify the Program through other complementary means to advance health IT certification and interoperability,” ONC wrote.

Additionally, an omnibus spending bill that passed in March 2018 allotted $60 million in funds to ONC to support 21st Century Cures Act provisions. The agency will be able to keep the funds through September to continue its support of furthering interoperability and other health data exchange efforts.

“By fully funding ONC, [Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ)], CDC, FDA, and by providing a $3 billion boost to the NIH, this spending package makes good on the promises articulated in the 21st Century Cures Act,” AHRQ wrote in a previous statement to EHRIntelligence.com, underlining its support for the spending bill.



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