HIMSS roundtable to offer NHIN proposal

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Of late, grail quests have seized popular attention, as is witnessed by the success of such works as Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. Medical informatics in the United States is also engaged in its own grail-like quest, the development of a national health information network (NHIN). However, unlike the search for a mythical object, an NHIN may well be an attainable goal.

Next week, at the Healthcare Information Management Systems Society (HIMSS) 2008 conference in Orlando, Fla., a roundtable discussion will take place whose goal is to create a new vision for an NHIN.

According to Ray Patalano, session moderator, the object of the presentation is to develop a model for the architecture of an NHIN and to present the results to Congress and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as a blueprint for its deployment and implementation.

Ray Patalano, a senior solutions marketing manager at Ciena, will be moderating the “National Health Information Network: Creating a New Vision” roundtable discussion on Tuesday afternoon, Feb. 26, at the 2008 Healthcare Information Management Systems Society conference in Orlando, Fla.  

“I want to start the process moving forward,” Patalano said in a conversation with HealthImaging.com. “The roundtable is our effort to get the dialog started about what an NHIN should be.”

Patalano, whose career has spanned networking industry companies such as Motorola, Vanguard Managed Solutions and 3Com, is currently a senior solutions marketing manager at Ciena, a specialist in network transition located in Linthicum, Md. His purpose in developing the roundtable session at HIMSS is to provide a forum for NHIN ideas from an audience and panel of experts in healthcare IT.

He said that his vision for an NHIN is that of a non-biased, quasi-governmental agency that is somewhat regulated, such as the Post Office; however, without that organization’s inefficiencies. The governance of the NHIN vision he advocates would be an independent body comprised of representatives from healthcare IT developers, technology experts, physician groups, the federal government, and patient advocates.

“It can’t be totally commercial, and it can’t be totally governmental,” he said.

The responsibility of the NHIN agency, which would own the network, would be to provide “security and safe access to patient healthcare information across the country.” This would be accomplished through the construction of a distributed network, allowing for data redundancy and continuous uptime without a single point of failure.

He proposed that the NHIN be based on an application service provider (ASP), or pay-as-you-go, model. In this schema, funding for the maintenance and extension of the NHIN would be paid for by users – with those that access the network the most, such as large hospitals, would contribute proportionally to its upkeep.

The roundtable discussion will be transcribed, Patalano said, and the results of the forum will be posted on the web for comment. The document generated from this process will then be delivered both to Congress and HHS as an NHIN development model for consideration and support.