By early July, the Office of the National Coordinator will announce the winners of 11 contracts for developing a health information exchange framework based on a model originated by federal homeland security agencies for sharing sensitive information over the Internet.
The National Information Exchange Model, or NIEM, is a technical approach to information sharing that federal agencies developed during the last decade, prompted by the need to share homeland security information quickly and securely. It is based on XML standards.
Doug Fridsma, acting director of ONC's Office of Standards and Interoperability, told members of the Health IT Standards Committee Wednesday that vendors have been chosen for eight of the 11 contracts, but none will be announced until all 11 are chosen.
"All of these contracts have to fit together," he said, and work on them will start simultaneously. An Office of Management and Budget review delayed the selection of the final three contractors, Fridsma said.
ONC officials have said that contractors would be enlisted to develop health information exchange definitions and standards within the NIEM framework, along with use cases for testing transactions. The NIEM framework will incorporate standards already in place, they said.
In February, ONC officials expected that the contractors would begin work in March.
Fridsma also promised to provide the committee with a "concept of operations" at its next meeting. He did not explain precisely what this would entail, but systems developers use such documents to explain how a system will work from a user's perspective.
Also at the Standards Committee meeting, Joy Pritts, ONC's chief privacy officer, said members of Health IT Policy Committee and Standards Committee workgroups on privacy and security will join forces in a "tiger team to address privacy and security issues on an expedited basis."
She said it was difficult to move quickly on the privacy and security issues now because the work was divided among several committees.
And Janet Corrigan, chair of the Standards Committee's quality workgroup, said that by July or August, her group "will have a good sense of what's doable for use in 2013."
The workgroup is reviewing existing quality measures and determining whether they are ready for use now or need to be tweaked to get ready for the second phase of the meaningful use implementation timeline starting in 2013.