Feds develop national health info network interface

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NHIN is currently linking government several departments, including VA and Social Security. Image Source: The Center for Health Information  

Six federal agencies have developed an interface for the Nationwide Health Information Network (NHIN) that they plan to make available to the public at no cost in March 2009.

The agencies that developed and are currently using the NHIN interface are the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments, the Social Security Administration, the Indian Health Service, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Cancer Institute.

Vish Sankaran, director of the Federal Health Architecture program at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONCHIT), said that if each agency had worked on the interface separately, it would have resulted in disparate approaches and much greater costs, reported Government Health IT.

The interface will be available by March to other federal agencies that wish to connect to the emerging NHIN, Sankaran said, adding that ONCHIT wants to encourage more agencies to exchange health records via the network, and he is particularly eager to see the FDA participate.

Although individuals and organizations can use the interface, if vendors build the interface into their products, such as EHRs, “it will lower costs,” Sankaran added.

The government will continue to tweak the interface and add capabilities as needed for the next couple of years, but by 2011, he said they expect the marketplace to “take ownership” of the open-source product.