January 21, 2022

HHS Releases Framework to Enable Nationwide Exchange of Certain Health Data

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) announced Jan. 18, the release of the Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement (TEFCA) mandated by the 21st Century Cures Act. The TEFCA essentially describes the infrastructure and obligations for networks that voluntarily wish to become Qualified Health Information Networks (QHINs) and enable nationwide exchange of certain health data.

The TEFCA concept involves an ONC-recognized coordinating entity, The Sequoia Project, which oversees the qualification process for networks seeking to become QHINs. Such networks would typically be regional or state-funded health information exchange networks, or other major networks with reliable funding and infrastructure. QHINs would sign the Common Agreement with The Sequoia Project and connect directly with other QHINs around the country. Participants and sub-participants of QHINs could then use this QHIN-to-QHIN connectivity to exchange data in a “network of networks” concept. The goal of TEFCA connectivity is that providers and others would have improved, lower-cost access to their patients’ health data around the country.

During a stakeholder call Jan. 18, The Sequoia Project indicated they intend to qualify the inaugural group of QHINs by the end of 2022, then will review prospective QHINs on a case-by-case basis. The Sequoia Project’s related efforts include establishing a governance framework for maintaining the integrity and continued relevance of the assorted TEFCA components.

Documents released by the ONC and The Sequoia Project include:

The Sequoia Project will host a series of educational webinars, beginning with an event exploring the Common Agreement contract Jan. 26.

For questions about TEFCA or other federal IT policy initiatives, please contact Michael Peters, American College of Radiology® Government Affairs Director.