NwHIN Exchange Spun Off as Public-Private Entity

The federal government has officially handed off operation of the Nationwide Health Information Network Exchange (NwHIN) to a new public-private, non-profit partnership. Healtheway Inc. will now serve as the business arm of the NwHIN Exchange, a network of private and public organizations that includes the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, and private organizations like Kaiser Permanente.

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) first formed the NwHIN Exchange in 2007 and launched the health information exchange platform within the government in 2009. Since then the NwHIN Exchange has been opened to private business with the hope of eventually transferring operations to a non-profit public-private partnership that could expand the health information exchange platform’s use across the country.

Healtheway will govern the business and operational end of NwHIN Exchange, which has also been renamed eHealth Exchange. The goal of Healtheway will be to build on and accelerate consensus on national exchange standards and expand use of eHealth Exchange to more public and private healthcare organizations.

While Healtheway will be governed by a board of directors elected by its membership, the eHealth Exchange will continue to be governed by the Exchange Coordinating Committee, a body founded by ONC and comprised of members representing various exchange participants including the federal government, according to an article in InformationWeek.

Healtheway has also partnered with the EHR/HIE Interoperability Workgroup—a New York eHealth Collaborative-led consortium of states and vendors—to establish a program that will test and certify electronic health records for HIE interoperability and safe and secure data exchange. The Certification Commission for Health Information Technology (CCHIT) will carry out the program’s health IT testing, certifying that the interfaces between health IT and HIEs is consistent across multiple states and systems.

The goal is that, as more and more vendors and providers become certified, the ability to interoperably exchange health information across the country will grow, according to a CCHIT press release.

“Today’s announcement brings together several activities supported by ONC over the past years: a core set of national standards, an Accredited Certification Body, the public-private partnership that has emerged from the Nationwide Health Information Network Exchange, and the convening power of New York and other State Health Information Exchange grantees,” said Farzad Mostashari, the National Coordinator for Health IT, in a press release. “We look forward to working with this consortium to continue progress on interoperability and secure health information exchange, and to reflect what is learned in national standards as necessary.”

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