The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has released initial specifications for a nationwide health care information exchange program.[@@]

The report, “Summary of Nationwide Health Information Network Request for Information Responses,” compiles responses to HHS’s request for input on how to develop a system for computerized exchange of health records among care providers.

“We asked the health care and information technology sectors to tell us what we need to know to plan a health information exchange system that will work==delivering health care records when and where they’re needed and strictly protecting their privacy and confidentiality,” said HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt in announcing the report. “These ideas provide invaluable ‘first specs’ for a plan that will transform health care in America.”

The report is a response to President George W. Bush’s call last year for the widespread adoption of electronic health records for most Americans within 10 years.

As envisioned by HHS, a nationwide health information network would be an Internet-based architecture that links disparate health care information systems to allow patients, physicians, hospitals, community health centers and public health agencies across the country to share clinical information securely.

According to HHS, there was significant support among respondents for a national health information network that would:

?Have a decentralized architecture linked by uniform communications and a software framework of open standards and policies.

?Reflect the interests of all stakeholders and be a joint public/private effort.

?Have a governing body composed of public and private stakeholders to oversee the setting of standards and policies.

?Have safeguards to protect the privacy of personal health information.

?Provide incentives to accelerate the deployment and adoption of a NHIN.

The complete report is available on the Web at http://www.hhs.gov/healthit/rfisummaryreport.pdf.