ONC To Convert NwHIN Into New Public-Private Partnership by October


The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT plans to transition the Nationwide Health Information Network into a public-private partnership called NwHIN-Exchange, which would start operating independently in October, Government Health IT reports.

Reasons for the Change

NwHIN is a national health IT infrastructure that aims to help health care providers exchange data. It started as a conceptual framework, then evolved into a set of data exchange standards and later was leveraged for pilot testing.

Mariann Yeager -- interim executive director of NwHIN-Exchange -- said six months ago, officials realized that NwHIN was connecting 500 hospitals and had "30,000 clinical users, 3,000 providers, and a patient population coverage area of 65 million people and one million shared records." She said, "It became pretty clear [that NwHIN] wasn't a pilot anymore -- and it's time for it to stand on its own."

New Public-Private Model

On March 1, the Exchange Coordinating Committee -- which is tasked with transitioning NwHIN into a public-private partnership -- approved a plan outlining the strategy for transforming the exchange into a not-for-profit organization.

Yeager said, "Once the legal entity is established, we will begin to transition operational functions from ONC to the new organization, which will then support the Exchange ongoing." Rather than functioning as a federal network, NwHIN-Exchange "will enable the sharing of health information among private organizations, as well as between private organizations and governmental agencies," Yeager said.

When the exchange becomes independent, some of the 21 non-federal entities participating in the network will include:

  • Kaiser Permanente;
  • Med Virginia;
  • The North Carolina Healthcare Information and Communication Alliance; and
  • The Regenstrief Institute.

Federal participants will include:

  • CMS;
  • The Department of Defense;
  • The Social Security Administration; and
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs.

Remaining Work

Stakeholders say much work remains to ensure that NwHIN-Exchange will be strong enough to operate effectively in October.

Tim Cromwell -- VA's director of standards and interoperability -- said officials want to ensure that NwHIN-Exchange infrastructure can support data exchange among at least 100 participating organizations. In addition, he said the infrastructure will need to be able to adapt to new data exchange standards. He said, "It has to be resilient and robust at the same time" (Sullivan, Government Health IT, 3/15).

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