Google, Microsoft to integrate with national health records network

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The NHIN Connect gateway will integrate health IT information. Source: The Center for Health Information  

The Office of the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology (ONCHIT) plans to integrate the Nationwide Health Information Network (NHIN) with the healthcare databases that Google and Microsoft launched last year, on which individuals can store their health records, according to the Health and Human Services Department (HHS).

ONCHIT also plans to expand NHIN to include EHRs stored in networks operated by the departments of Defense (DoD) and Veterans Affairs (VA), and the Indian Health Service, and integrated health systems that span numerous communities, said Charles Friedman, chief operating officer for the health information office within HHS.

Friedman provided few details on how the office would incorporate personal health records from Google Health and other organizations developing similar applications, such as Microsoft's HealthVault, which it launched in October 2007. By the end of 2008, HHS will have demonstrated the exchange of different kinds of health information through the network, he said.

Last month, Google launched a pilot project with the Cleveland Clinic to provide patients the results of their doctor visits, prescriptions, tests and procedures through Google's secure web authentication proxy service.

Federal interfaces to the health network will be through an entity called NHIN Connect, Friedman said. NHIN Connect will be based on the National Health Information Exchange Gateway, which Harris Corp. will develop under a contract awarded by HHS, according to Lt. Col. Hon Pak, director of the advanced information technology group of the U.S. Army's Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center at Fort Detrick, Md.

Pak, who serves as the DoD representative on NHIN Connect, said the network will use software developed by the DoD and VA for the Bidirectional Health Information Exchange, which clinicians in both departments use to share electronic patient information, and software developed by the National Cancer Institute for its Cancer Biomedical Informatics Grid.

The NHIN Connect gateway integrates healthcare IT information from several federal agencies into the NHIN. This includes VA, DoD and the Indian Health Service as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Pak said. NHIN Connect is still in an early development stage, he added.