opment of a National Health Information Network (NHIN) through several efforts, including the following:

  • The Consolidated Health Informatics (CHI) initiative, which has endorsed a portfolio of existing health information interoperability standards (Bodenheimer, 2005).

  • The Healthcare Information Technology Standards Panel, a cooperative partnership of public and private stakeholders, supported and funded by the DHHS Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology with the purpose of achieving a widely accepted and useful set of standards that will enable and support widespread interoperability among health care software applications (ANSI, 2006).

  • The American Health Information Community, a commission of public and private representatives that provides input and recommendations to DHHS on the development and adoption of architecture, standards, a certification process, and a method of governance for the ongoing implementation of health information technology (Thorpe, 2005).

  • A set of 16 community health information technology grants totaling more than $22.3 million, awarded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), which are focused on data sharing and interoperability among providers, laboratories, pharmacies, and patients in several regions across the country (Cogan et al., 2005).

  • Contracts totaling $18.6 million awarded by DHHS to four consortia of technology developers and health care providers to develop prototypes for an NHIN (Dowd, 2005); and

  • Partial or full funding in support of more than 100 Regional Health Information Organizations (RHIOs)—regional collaborations throughout the country that facilitate the development, implementation, and application of secure health information systems across care settings (including those funded by AHRQ as noted above) (Ginsburg, 2005).

In addition, in the private sector, Connecting for Health has begun a National Health Information Exchange initiative, which involves three very different local health information networks—in Boston, Massachusetts; Indianapolis, Indiana; and Mendocino, California—that will work together to facilitate their secure exchange of health information (Rosenthal et al., 2005). Several RHIOs are also under way that are fully supported by private industries and/or state legislation. The federal government and other public and private stakeholders need to continue to work aggressively on the development of these mechanisms for interoperability among health information technology systems, while also ensuring the confidentiality of individual patient information.



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