TEFCA: The Birth of the Network

By Jim Tate, EMR Advocate
Twitter: @jimtate, eMail: jimtate@emradvocate.com
Host of The Tate Chronicles#TateDispatches

It has been a long slog but on Monday February 13th we will witness the much-awaited announcement of the first wave of Qualified Health Information Networks (QHINS). These networks will be the major cog wheels of the TEFCA program and offer a giant step forward to the goal of healthcare data interoperability. Perhaps this is a good time to review the basics.

  • The Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement (TEFCA) is a health information exchange initiative that aims to improve the secure and efficient exchange of electronic health information across the United States. TEFCA is being developed by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  • The purpose of TEFCA is to establish a set of common standards and policies for health information exchange that will promote interoperability and support patient privacy and security. The framework provides a comprehensive set of technical, operational, and legal standards that participating health information networks must meet to participate in TEFCA.
  • TEFCA also defines a governance structure that will ensure that the network operates in a manner that is consistent with the goals of TEFCA. The governance structure includes a board of directors, a technical advisory committee, and a privacy and security advisory committee.
  • TEFCA is designed to provide a common platform for health information exchange that will be accessible to all healthcare providers, regardless of their location or type of practice. This will help to eliminate barriers to exchange that have been created by different technical standards and policy frameworks.

TEFCA brings the promise of an important initiative that could significantly improve the exchange of health information across the United States. By establishing a common framework for health information exchange, TEFCA could help to promote interoperability and support patient privacy and security. Only time will tell what TEFCA will bring in terms of the goal of data liquidity, but from where I sit, the glass is more than half full.

On Monday, February 13, HHS will recognize the first set of applicant organizations that are approved for onboarding as Qualified Health Information Networks (QHINs) under TEFCA. Following this approval, the organizations will officially begin the onboarding process and, if successful, will be designated as QHINs. At this event, HHS Secretary Becerra will recognize these organizations for their willingness to voluntarily step up and meet the demanding TEFCA eligibility requirements, terms, and conditions of TEFCA participation. These organizations committed to meeting a 12-month go-live timeline.

The event will be live-streamed at https://hhs.gov/live on February 13.