Sunday, July 19, 2009

NHIN Topic on Capitol Hill

In depth insights were shared on the development, progress, and future directions facing the Nationwide Health Information Network (NHIN). The attendees at the Capitol Hill “Steering Committee on Telehealth and Healthcare Informatics” lunch briefing on July 15th, listened to speakers as they shared their expertise on the progress of the NHIN CONNECT Gateway.

As moderator, Neal Neuberger, Executive Director of the Institute for e-Health Policy, explained, the NHIN CONNECT Gateway is an important tool needed to provide a secure gateway to obtain and handle the enormous amount of health data available from the federal agencies.

In the beginning, the Federal Health Architecture (FHA) program was started when a number of agencies came together to identify the problem, design, invest, and find ways to implement the solution, according to Vish Sankaran, Program Director, Federal Health Architecture (FHA). He continued to say that the agencies came together to not only to advance health information but to make it possible to release open source code for the “NHIN CONNECT Gateway.

As he explained, the first agency to go live with CONNECT was the Social Security Administration. At the HIMSS Annual meeting held in April, seven federal agencies including SSA, DOD, VA, IHS, NCI, CDC, and NDMS participated in demonstrations to showcase CONNECT.

According to David Riley, Architect for the FHA CONNECT Initiative Lead, progress is constantly being made. Initially, the Gateway Package was released in December, then in February, the Social Security Administration went live using CONNECT with Med VA. In April, CONNECT v2.0 was released to the public as open source, and CONNECT v2.1 will be released at the end of July with v2.2 scheduled for release in September.

He told the attendees that an enormously successful CONNECT Seminar was held in June in Washington D.C., with over 1,000 attendees from federal, state, tribal and local governments, universities, research facilities, healthcare providers, and health IT vendors coming together to share valuable technical knowledge.

Denny Porter, Executive in Residence, Institute for e-Health Policy, explained that for the first time, Americans will be able to use the FHR Gateway to find information on federally held clinical and claims data and be able to provide this information to providers and patients. Even better, this information could be included in personal health records.

He described a hypothetical scenario where a Vietnam veteran he called “Emil “J” needed to retrieve 40 years of information. Emil “J” wanted to have access to his records both from the VA and the military, plus from other places such as NIH, CMS, and other civilian providers that have held his medical records for the past 40 years. He used this hypothetical example to emphasize how important it is to have this type of information available and transparent everywhere so that all doctors are able to provide more coordinated care not only for veterans but for the American people.

Jim Traficant, Vice President and Senior Executive, Healthcare Solutions, Harris Corporation, approached the need for an interoperable system by describing his personal medical story and the difficulty in finding coordinated medical and research information when he underwent an organ transplant and then afterwards when he had organ rejection issues. With his medical and health issues to deal with, he and his doctors would have had an easier time if comprehensive information had been made available easily and quickly. As it was, he and his doctors were lucky to find information on a vital new drug that he needed to help to restore his health.

Now, he has a unique passion to make changes in the system and emphasized the importance for this country to move forward to have an integrated interoperable health enterprise that puts patients at the center of the system.

The series of lunch briefings is part of a 2009 series of educational programs on behalf of the Capitol Hill “Steering Committee on Telehealth and Healthcare Informatics.” HIMSS and their Institute for e-Health Policy manage the Capitol Hill HIT briefing series.

The Institute is coordinating the “Annual National HIT Week” activities to be held September 21-25, 2009. As part of the activities for the week, the “Capitol Hill Health Information Technology Showcase” will be held on September 24, 2009. For more information, contact Neal Neuberger, at or go to