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NHIN Direct to help providers exchange health information

As the deadlines to receive American Recovery and Reinvestment Act incentive payments draw ever closer, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology is eager to jump-start its NHIN Direct project for exchanging health information securely over the Internet. (NHIN stands for Nationwide Health Information Network.) In the next two months the ONC plans to publish a set of draft standards for NHIN Direct’s specifications.

The NHIN Direct team hopes to begin testing the specifications in a real-world environment by October, so that tools and services can be ready for providers to achieve Stage 1 of meaningful use, which begins in 2011.

Although NHIN and NHIN Direct include standards, services and policies, NHIN Direct, considered an extension of NHIN, will support a different set of use cases. For example, NHIN Direct might be used by a primary care provider who refers a patient to a specialist and wishes to send the specialist the patient’s summary care record. The specialist in turn could use NHIN Direct to send an updated summary care record back to the primary care provider.

Arien Malec, a member of the Health IT Policy Committee’s NHIN workgroup, is the coordinator for NHIN Direct. For individuals and organizations wishing to become involved, there are two paths to participation: an implementation group, consisting of members who have committed to active involvement in deploying the standards and specifications; and an expanded group, consisting of individuals who will provide feedback, expertise and suggestions along the way.

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