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Latest Top (4) News


HHS Announces Next Steps in Advancing Interoperability of Health Information

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) today issued for public comment draft 2 of the Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement (TEFCA) that will support the full, network-to-network exchange of health information nationally. HHS also released a notice of funding opportunity to engage a non-profit, industry-based organization that will advance nationwide interoperability.

Specifically, the documents being released for comment are: (1) a second draft of the Trusted Exchange Framework (TEF), (2) a second draft of the Minimum Required Terms and Conditions (MRTCs) for trusted exchange, and (3) a first draft of a Qualified Health Information Network (QHIN) Technical Framework. These documents will form the basis of a single Common Agreement that QHINs and their participants may adopt. This Common Agreement will create baseline technical and legal requirements for sharing electronic health information on a nationwide scale across disparate networks. 

“The seamless, interoperable exchange of health information is a key piece of building a health system that empowers patients and providers and delivers better care at a lower cost,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “The 21st Century Cures Act took an important step toward this goal by promoting a national framework and common agreement for the trusted exchange of health information. We appreciate the comments and input from stakeholders so far and look forward to continued engagement.”

In developing a TEFCA that meets industry’s needs, HHS’ Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) has focused on three high-level goals:

  • Provide a single “on-ramp” to nationwide connectivity;
  • Ensure electronic information securely follows you when and where it is needed; and
  • Support nationwide scalability for network connectivity.

ONC will maintain the TEF, while a non-profit, industry-based organization, known as the Recognized Coordinating Entity (RCE), will be awarded funds to develop, update, implement, and maintain the Common Agreement. Through this effort, ONC will define the minimum required terms and conditions needed to bridge the current differences among data sharing agreements that are preventing the flow of electronic health information.  The industry-based RCE will be tasked with developing additional required terms and conditions necessary to operationalize the Common Agreement and meet the interoperability requirements of the 21st Century Cures Act.

“The updated Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement we issued today considered the more than 200 comments we received on our previous draft and reflects extensive work with our federal partners,” said Don Rucker, M.D., national coordinator for health information technology. “The future Common Agreement, made possible by the steps we take today, will provide the governance necessary to meet the interoperability demands of diverse stakeholders, including patients, healthcare providers, and health plans.”

The drafts released today are responsive to stakeholder comments by making key changes to the draft requirements that health information networks who choose to participate would have to follow. These changes include updating the purposes for which information can be exchanged, adding a “push” method of data exchange, adding a technical framework for QHINs, and extending timelines for participating entities to implement changes that will be required by the Common Agreement.

These changes will help improve the flow of information between networks where needed and appropriate.  In public health settings, for example, “reporting from providers is a foundational capability for effective public health action,” said Chesley Richards, MD, MPH, FACP, deputy director for public health scientific services at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  “The TEFCA will not only strengthen this capability, but will create the ability for timely and true bi-directional information sharing that is essential for responding to public health threats and epidemics.”

Designed to fill the gaps that currently impede the secure and appropriate flow of health information and to continue to enable the progress that has already been made in the private sector, the success of the TEFCA depends on coordination with the private sector. “We expect that the implementation of the Trusted Exchange Framework and the Common Agreement, will bring us all that much closer to achieving the administration’s goals of nationwide interoperability,” said Dr. Rucker.

The public comment period on the TEF, MRTCs, and QHIN Technical Framework ends on June 17, 2019 and stakeholders are strongly encouraged to provide comments to help ONC shape the future of interoperable health information flow.

The application period for the Notice of Funding Opportunity - Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement Recognized Coordinating Entity (RCE) Cooperative Agreement will be open until June 17, 2019.



Friday, April 19, 2019 - 19:00


HHS Extends Comment Period for Proposed Rules to Improve the Interoperability of Electronic Health Information

Today, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced it is extending the public comment period by 30 days for two proposed regulations aimed at promoting the interoperability of health information technology (health IT) and enabling patients to electronically access their health information. The new deadline for the submission of comments – June 3, 2019 – will allow additional time for the public to review the proposed regulations.

The extension of the public comment period coincides with a release by the HHS Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) of the second draft of the Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement, along with a related Notice of Funding Opportunity. HHS also today released of a set of frequently asked questions (FAQs) from the Office for Civil Rights (OCR).

The FAQs address the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) right of access as it relates to apps designated by individual patients and application programming interfaces (APIs) used by a healthcare provider’s electronic health record (EHR) system. The FAQs clarify that once protected health information has been shared with a third-party app, as directed by the individual, the HIPAA covered entity will not be liable under HIPAA for subsequent use or disclosure of electronic protected health information, provided the app developer is not itself a business associate of a covered entity or other business associate.

On February 11, 2019, HHS announced two proposed rules to support the seamless and secure access, exchange, and use of electronic health information (with Federal Register publication on March 4, 2019). The rules would increase choice and competition while fostering innovation that promotes patient electronic access to and control over their health information. Together the proposed rules address both technical and healthcare industry factors that create barriers to the interoperability of health information and limit a patient’s ability to access essential health information. Addressing those challenges will help to drive an interoperable health IT infrastructure across systems, enabling healthcare providers and patients to have access to health data when and where it is needed.

This extension responds to requests from a variety of stakeholders, including healthcare provider organizations and industry representatives. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and ONC understand that both rules include a range of issues having major effects on healthcare. The extension of the public comment deadline will maximize the opportunity for meaningful input and further the overall objective to obtain public input on the proposed provisions to move the healthcare ecosystem in the direction of interoperability.

For more information on the ONC proposed rule visit: https://www.healthit.gov/NPRM

For more information on the Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement and the Notice of Funding Opportunity, visit: https://www.healthit.gov/TEFCA

To receive more information about CMS’s interoperability efforts, sign-up for listserv notifications, here: https://public.govdelivery.com/accounts/USCMS/subscriber/new?topic_id=USCMS_12443

For a fact sheet on the CMS proposed rule (CMS-9115-P), please visit: https://www.cms.gov/newsroom/fact-sheets/cms-advances-interoperability-patient-access-health-data-through-new-proposals

To view the CMS proposed rule (CMS-9115-P), please visit: https://www.cms.gov/Center/Special-Topic/Interoperability-Center.html

To view OCR’s FAQ, please visit: https://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-professionals/faq/health-information-technology/index.html

 



Friday, April 19, 2019 - 19:00


OCR Issues Notice of Resolution to the State of Hawaii After Hawaii Takes Action in Safeguarding Conscience Protections for Pregnancy Care Centers

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced today that it issued a Notice of Resolution to the State of Hawaii after Hawaii took corrective action in response to OCR’s investigation of complaints of discrimination by the state against non-profit pregnancy resource centers.

Complainants, Aloha Pregnancy Care and Counseling Center, Inc. and Calvary Chapel Pearl Harbor, filed a complaint with OCR alleging that Hawaii engaged in impermissible discrimination under one or more of federal conscience laws when Hawaii enacted the notice requirements of Act 200, a 2017 law which required them to disseminate a government-scripted notice that promotes abortion – a service for which they do not offer, counsel, recommend, or refer. The Complainants are pro-life and dedicated specifically to providing women options other than abortion.

OCR’s new Conscience and Religious Freedom Division initiated an investigation into the allegations under OCR’s authority to enforce the Weldon and Coats-Snowe Amendments. As a result of OCR’s investigation, on March 15, 2019, Hawaii’s Attorney General issued a memorandum to the Department of the Attorney General for the State of Hawaii, which is charged with enforcing Act 200, stating that it will not enforce Act 200’s notice provisions against any limited service pregnancy center.

The Hawaii Attorney General also committed to notify Hawaii’s legislature of its decision not to enforce Act 200’s notice provisions against any limited service pregnancy center.

Hawaii’s actions follow the Supreme Court’s ruling in National Institute of Family & Life Advocates v. Becerra, 138 S. Ct. 2361 (2018) (NIFLA), which held that a California law similar to Hawaii’s Act 200 likely violated pregnancy resource centers’ Free Speech rights.  The action also follows stipulated permanent injunctions, entered by the U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii against Act 200 in separate litigation in September 2018, against Hawaii enforcing the Act against the plaintiffs in the lawsuits.  Hawaii’s action in response to OCR’s investigation commits the state to respect the rights of every pro-life pregnancy resource center in the state, not just the particular parties covered by the injunctions. As a result, OCR now considers the complaints before it as satisfactorily resolved, and will be closing the matter.

Roger Severino, director of OCR stated, “Although Hawaii should never have burdened the rights of nonprofits seeking to provide pregnant women life-affirming options, we commend Hawaii for committing to not enforcing Act 200’s notice provisions against anyone, in response to our investigation.” Severino continued, “OCR takes allegations of conscience violations seriously.  We encourage other states to take a hard look at their own laws and make sure that they do not violate federal conscience and religious freedom statutes in health and human services.”

View OCR’s Notice of Resolution to Hawaii.



Friday, March 22, 2019 - 12:00


Statement on FY2020 Budget Proposal for Ending The HIV Epidemic In America

Today, President Trump proposed $291 million in the FY2020 HHS budget to begin his Administration’s multi-year initiative focused on ending the HIV epidemic in America by 2030. This new initiative aims to reduce new HIV infections by 75 percent in the next 5 years and by 90 percent in the next 10 years, averting more than 250,000 HIV infections in that span.

Recent data show our progress reducing the number of new HIV infections has plateaued, and there are new threats to the progress that has been made, the most significant being the opioid crisis: 1 in 10 new HIV infections occur among people who inject drugs.

Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America, announced by the President in his State of the Union address on February 5, 2019, is a bold approach that is the result of decades of work, and focuses on four key strategies that, together, can end the HIV epidemic in the U.S.  The funding requested, based on careful consideration by our top scientists and public health officials, targets four areas of action:

  • Diagnose all individuals with HIV as early as possible after infection.
  • Treat the infection rapidly and effectively after diagnosis, achieving sustained viral suppression.
  • Protect individuals at risk for HIV using proven prevention approaches.
  • Respond rapidly to detect and respond to growing HIV clusters and prevent new HIV infections.

The time to act is now.  We have the right data, the right tools, and the right leadership to end the HIV epidemic in America—a goal once thought impossible but now within our reach. The initial investment announced today will undoubtedly help to reverse current, troubling trends and put us on a committed pathway to ending the HIV epidemic for our next generation.



Monday, March 11, 2019 - 12:15