Leaders from CMS, the ONC, and six newly designated QHIN candidates have gathered to discuss their visions for data exchange progress in 2023 and beyond. Secretary Xavier Becerra from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services delivered certificates of recognition to the CommonWell Health Alliance, eHealth Exchange, Epic TEFCA Interoperability Services, Health Gorilla, Kno2, and KONZA for moving into the testing process of the Trusted Exchange Framework and the Common Agreement (TEFCA). With the framework, ONC and the Sequoia Project, TEFCA's recognized coordinating entity, seeks to establish a universal policy for nationwide interoperability, simplify connectivity for organizations to exchange patient information, and advance public health goals securely.
Becerra said that while the American public may not be aware of TEFCA, they would soon see that something has changed in the way we deliver healthcare. "At some point, it's going to click that something has changed. That suddenly, a physician specialist instantly got the information needed to keep you alive," he said. He also stated that while healthcare interoperability should have happened long ago, "we took on this bear, and it's going to be a great benefit to so many people." Becerra said TEFCA would bring down the cost of healthcare and benefit patients and support providers.
Interoperability provides better connections for patient care, reduces the risk of medical errors, and prepares America for future healthcare crises. “It connects doctors and patients to more complete and accurate health records and allowspatients to access their records.”, Becerra said. After presenting certificates to Paul Wilder, exec director of CommonWell Health Alliance; Jay Nakishima, CEO of eHealth Exchange; Judith Faulkner, CEO of Epic; Steve Yaskin, CEO of Health Gorilla; Jon Elwell, CEO of Kno2; Laura McCrary, CEO of KONZA and Yeager, Becerra said he believes that all those recognized are in the "trenches" regardless of benefit, as evidenced by how quickly they all came together without requirements or funding. "The team at ONC has taken us farther than anyone has ever believed, but we want to cross that goal line.", stated Becerra.
"Collectively, the QHIN applicants have networks that cover most U.S. hospitals, tens of thousands of providers, and process billions of annual transactions across all fifty states”, said the National Coordinator for Health IT, Micky Tripathi.
“Why we can't get our medical records around seamlessly is a very complex undertaking, making the QHINs critically important”, said Dr. Arati Prabhakar, President Joe Biden's science advisor and director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. "We know how easily information moves around in other parts of our lives", she said. But coming together across companies is not trivial, she noted, calling the collaboration "a great example of what is possible when we cut across boundaries." Looking ahead, she said TEFCA would enable profound changes for public health and how we unlock the data's power to provide better treatment courses. Dr. Prabhakar stated "Ultimately, we aim for the kind of deeper understanding that allows us to recognize the sources of disease and start eliminating them. I think that starts to get at why this is such a big deal and why it is such a big moment." She added that “working together on this long and significant journey is how we do big things to change how health unfolds and advance health equity in the U.S. … If we're able to do this, we're going to be able to realize one of the most significant aspirations that we have as a country today, which is to improve health outcomes for every American irrespective of gender, irrespective of sexual orientation, irrespective of race, ethnicity, or zip code".