Preparing for a World of National Networks and Frameworks

Portrait of mature female doctor using digital tablet with doctor's conference

The exchange of information in the American healthcare system has undergone an evolution in the last sixty years, mirroring the transformation of the healthcare delivery system itself. Moving from a largely siloed model of isolated individual providers to more large integrated delivery systems and somewhat more of a distributed and team-based model. The early paradigm of handwritten notes in paper charts has given way to electronic data capture and exchange. The advent of Electronic Health Records (EHR) marked a significant leap forward, offering a digitized version of a patient’s medical record with interoperability ensuring that the information is accessible to an authorized interdisciplinary care team.

The overwhelming adoption of EHRs offers a digitized version of a patient’s medical history and increases the availability and comprehensibility of this information. Interoperability enhances the accessibility of patient information for interdisciplinary care teams across unaffiliated healthcare organizations and other authorized healthcare constituents. Modern Certified EHR Technology (CEHRT) systems have highly structured machine-readable discrete data formats that support national-scale interoperability. A patient's critical health information can follow them across disparate implementations of the same brand or different brands of CEHRT from one healthcare environment to another, enabling continuity of care and reducing the risk of errors and duplicate treatments.

Today, we stand on the cusp of the next evolution in interoperable healthcare delivery through an Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) supported National Framework: The Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement (TEFCA). TEFCA, through the designation of Qualified Health Information Networks (QHINS), aims to create a single 'on-ramp' to nationwide connectivity, simplifying the process for patients, providers and authorized healthcare participants to share health information securely and efficiently. This framework represents the ambition to achieve a national interconnected health system.

HIMSS is an international advisor and thought leader member-based society committed to enhancing the international health ecosystem through the power of information technology. As a mission-driven non-profit, HIMSS offers a unique depth and breadth of expertise in health innovation, public policy, workforce development, research, and analytics to advise global leaders, stakeholders, and influencers on best practices in health information technology driven by health equity.