Data Exchange to Rely on Voluntary Efforts

Beginning a regulatory process could slow development.

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT is giving up on setting formal rules for exchanging data through the Nationwide Health Information Network, ceding to voluntary efforts already in process.

After opening the proposal for public comment this summer, the office heard repeatedly that “the very act of beginning a regulatory process may actually slow the development of trusted exchange at a time when we cannot afford that,” the ONC’s Dr. Farzad Mostashari said in a Sept. 7 blog post announcing his decision.

“Based on what we heard and our analysis of alternatives, we’ve decided (to) implement an approach that provides a means for defining and implementing nationwide trusted exchange with higher agility, and lower likelihood of regret,” Mostashari wrote.

“Our goal is to encourage the exchange activities that are gaining steam across the country and across the industry, and not to hobble them,” he continued. “As we are accelerating the implementation and expectations of standards-based exchange in Stage 2 of Meaningful Use, this is the last thing we want.”

Mostashari said his office would instead promote trusted information exchange by:

  • Highlighting good practices for robust, secure and interoperable exchange and providing a framework of principles to guide emerging governance models.
  • Engaging with organizations in health information exchange governance and oversight roles.
  • Providing guidance and tools to circumvent barriers to interoperability and exchange, and using its authority and convening powers to create consensus.
  • Working with other federal agencies to evaluate how to incorporate consumer protections into health information exchange.
  • Monitoring the efforts to develop secure, effective health information exchange.

He said ONC would re-enter the rule-making business “if systemic problems or market break-downs emerge that might require regulatory action.”