Epic plans to participate in TEFCA, will apply to be a QHIN

The Verona, Wis.-based developer of health information systems says the move expands its commitment to facilitating information exchange nationwide.

Epic, one of the nation’s largest providers of electronic health records systems, has announced its intention to participate in a federal program that aims to offer a minimal set of standards to ensure easy exchange of healthcare information nationwide.

The Verona, Wis.-based company says it plans to take part in the Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement (TEFCA) and that it expects to apply to be an inaugural Qualified Health Information Network, or QHIN. These QHINs are expected to be the backbone of interoperability, connecting to each other, and to their participants and sub-participants.

While several information exchange cooperatives have stated their intention to participate in TEFCA and become QHINs, Epic is one of the first developers of EHR systems to announce a desire for that designation.

The participation of Epic in TEFCA would be significant because of the company’s connections to data sharing initiatives such as Carequality and its own customer base, which it estimates at 2,000 hospitals and 45,000 clinics.

TEFCA momentum so far

In January, the Office of the National Coordinator of Health IT released the final draft of requirements for the Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement, with the intent of establishing a universal floor of interoperability across the country. It will establish the infrastructure and governance needed for different networks to securely share basic clinical information with each other and will enable patients to more easily access their health information.

Having healthcare organizations become QHINs is a cornerstone of the establishing and achieving requirements across the program. The Sequoia Project is the recognized coordinating entity (RCE) to support the implementation of TEFCA, and last month it released details on the process and requirements for becoming a QHIN, looking to implement the application process later this year.

Epic executives note that the company has worked with ONC, The Sequoia Project “and the broader healthcare community to build consensus around the principles and procedures of TEFCA.”

“Our fundamental goal is to help all patients receive informed, personalized care — regardless of where they go to receive it,” says Dave Fuhrmann, senior vice president of interoperability at Epic. “Our customers have led the way with large-scale interoperability through Carequality, and we’re happy to help with the next stage in the evolution of interoperability.”

Organizations that use Epic healthcare solutions have access to the Care Everywhere Network, which enables the exchange of clinical information on patients.

Providers use Care Everywhere to exchange more than 10 million patient charts daily, and half of those exchanges occur with organizations that use different interoperable systems, such as those ooperated by the Veterans Administration, Department of Defense and a range of health information exchanges, says Matt Doyle, development for Care Everywhere at Epic. Nearly all of Epic’s customers also exchange data through Carequality, a nationwide exchange framework that represents about 70 percent of U.S. hospitals.

A boost for info exchange

Epic sees value in participating in TEFCA because it represents “a single on-ramp for interoperability, which will make it easier to exchange information,” Doyle says. “Secondly, it’s a great opportunity to establish a floor of expectations across the country” for healthcare information exchange. Epic hope its announcement also catalyzes TEFCA participation from other health technology companies, Doyle adds.

Epic’s participation in TEFCA also will be important for OCHIN, a non-profit healthcare innovation center that is seeking to improve health information exchange among nearly 1,000 community health centers and other safety net providers, say OCHIN executives.

“OCHIN is a long-time Epic partner focused on driving health equity by connecting the millions of medically and socially complex patients our members serve nationwide to the comprehensive health care system they deserve,” says Jennifer Stoll, executive vice president of external affairs for OCHIN.

“We applaud Epic’s plans to become a Qualified Health Information Network,” she adds. “This move will create an information superhighway for health data to flow seamlessly between providers across health care systems, ensuring our systemically underserved patients receive timely and connected care whenever they need it.”

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