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ONC’s TEFCA Interoperability Framework Set for Early 2022

The infrastructure for nationwide health care interoperability will pave the way for efficiencies and data analytics.

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The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT announced that the Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement (TEFCA) will go live in the first quarter of calendar year 2022.

The 21st Century Cures Act called on ONC to develop a trusted exchange framework, as well as a common agreement, across health information networks nationally to establish procedures and standards to expand health electronic data interoperability and develop a common agreement for nationwide health information exchange across health information networks.

The value of health information exchanges isn’t just in the collection and distribution of health data, but also in the capability to perform large-scale health data analytics to identify and respond to incidents. This includes capacity planning and understanding the frequency of COVID-19-like symptoms, as well as using those insights to inform public health policy.

National Coordinator for Health IT Micky Tripathi announced the timeline Tuesday and provided more details on TEFCA and its Qualified Health Information Network (QHIN) Technical Framework (QTF) during an ONC Health IT Advisory Committee meeting Wednesday.

“In the first quarter of 2022, we will be able to make available a Common Agreement and the QTFs that accompany that for any network that chooses to participate in the TEFCA framework going forward,” Tripathi said.

The QHINs are networks that will agree to the common terms of exchange with each other, and the QTF will provide the functional and technical requirements for the exchange.

Throughout the rest of 2021, ONC will hold public engagement webinars and Common Agreement work group sessions to receive further input on TEFCA Version 1 and QTF Version 1. ONC is working with The Sequoia Project as its Recognized Coordinating Entity to process feedback.

During the rest of 2022, QHINs can start signing the Common Agreement, getting selected and onboarded and begin sharing data on a rolling basis, Tripathi and The Sequioa Project CEO Mariann Yeager said in a statement.

The TEFCA timeline and process will help lead to greater interoperability across the country.

“The overall goal for TEFCA is to establish a floor of universal interoperability across the country,” the statement said. “Networks of many shapes, sizes and capabilities exist today, and we anticipate they will continue to provide interoperability services over and above the basic foundation established by the Common Agreement. Throughout our work, one of our longstanding principles has been to build on the successes of networks already present in the market — not to stifle or replace them.”

The Common Agreement will lower the cost of basic information sharing, which will free up resources for more value-added services, create a competitive playing field for existing and newly emerging networks and fill gaps in cross-network exchange.

“The Common Agreement will establish the infrastructure model and the governing approach for users in different networks to securely share basic clinical information with each other — all under commonly agreed-to expectations and rules and regardless of which network they happen to be in,” the statement said.

As ONC looks to release TEFCA V1 and QTF V1 in 2022, Tripathi and Yeager said that the agency will update the Common Agreement and QTF as user requirements, use cases and technology change over time.

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