National health records network to hook up with Google, Microsoft

Bob Brewin writes in Government Executive:

The federal office in charge of creating a national network of electronic health records plans to integrate the system with the health care databases that Google and Microsoft launched last year, on which individuals can store their health records, a top official with the Health and Human Services Department said.

The Office of the Coordinator of Health Information Technology plans this year to expand its Nationwide Health Information Network to also include electronic health records stored in networks operated by the departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, and the Indian Health Service, and integrated health care systems that span numerous communities, said Charles Friedman, chief operating officer for the health information office, which is part of HHS. Friedman spoke March 26 at the Defense Health Care Information Technology Conference at Georgetown University in Washington.

The NHIN is the primary component of a project that President Bush kicked off in 2004 to create a network that eventually will integrate the electronic health records of every American. Bush set 2014 as the deadline to have the majority of the public’s electronic health records available to any doctor’s office, hospital or clinic hooked up to the network. The original architecture for the national network will be built around four multistate Regional Health Information Organizations that will share their patients’ medical data. HHS set up the four RHIOs in 2005 when it awarded contracts to Accenture, Computer Sciences Corp., IBM and Northrop Grumman.

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. By the end of this year, HHS will have demonstrated the exchange of different kinds of health information through the network.

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.

Friedman did not say how his office will incorporate multicommunity integrated health care delivery systems, but plans to tie these systems into the NHIN indicate that the HHS office wants to expand the network from the state to the local level, with the network hooking up cities and towns within a state, according to an executive of a health IT vendor at the conference who declined to be identified.

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