HHS Preps Test of E-Health Records System

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information plans to field its first trials of a computer network that will test how Americans’ electronic health records could be shared nationwide.

The office plans to award up to 10 one-year contracts to tie together state and regional health care groups that use electronic health records in their operations to become components of a larger network. The office gave no time frame for the awards.

The national coordinator’s office, part of the Department of Health and Human Services, refers to the system as a “network of networks,” which once built out will be called the Nationwide Health Information Network (NHIN). The national coordinator’s office envisions the NHIN allowing clinicians from Maine to California to exchange and view the electronic health records on every patient in the United States. President Bush has set a goal of creating electronic health records for most Americans by 2014.

In November 2005, the national coordinator’s office awarded contracts to Accenture, Computer Science Corporation, IBM and Northrop Grumman to develop regional NHIN prototypes by partnering with regional health care organizations. The upcoming trial apparently is the next stage of testing the NHIN by tying these regional networks together to test how the system could operate on a larger scale.

The national coordinator’s office plans to hold on May 23 a pre-solicitation Webinar on the network of networks trial and also plans to issue a request for proposals in early June. The office said it anticipates awarding up to a third of the contracts to small businesses.