ONC names Sequoia Project as TEFCA coordinator

By | September 4, 2019

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT has awarded a new cooperative agreement to the Sequoia Project to run a major component of the Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement, or TEFCA.

As the recognized coordinating entity for TEFCA, Sequoia Project is charged with developing, updating, implementing and maintaining the common agreement portion of the framework, according to ONC.

In addition, Sequoia will work with ONC to designate and monitor Qualified Health Information Networks and modify and update accompanying QHIN technical requirements, the agency says. It will also work with stakeholders to adjudicate noncompliance with the common agreement and proposing sustainability strategies to support TEFCA beyond the agreement’s period of performance.

The nonprofit Sequoia Project – which restructured in 2018 as a convener with two independent subsidiary initiatives, eHealth Exchange and Carequality – is a public-private collaborative aimed at solving real-world interoperability challenges by bringing together stakeholders from government and the private sector to address the opportunities and challenges inherent in health data exchange.

TEFCA is a key component of ONC’s implementation of the 21st Century Cures Act. The common agreement will comprise baseline technical and legal requirements for health information networks to share electronic health information.

The Cures Act prioritizes trusted exchange as a means of creating an environment of transparency and competition across healthcare, addressing the technical barriers and business practices that otherwise can impede the secure and appropriate sharing of electronic health information.

In June, many industry groups offered comments to ONC on Draft 2 of the Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement. Among them was the Sequoia Project, which offered a list of technical suggestions for how TEFCA Draft 2 can be improved.

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For other suggestions, it said the framework should seek to avoid disruption and duplication of existing exchanges between health information networks. As currently drafted, Sequoia noted, TEFCA “would both disrupt and duplicate existing exchange mechanisms and would require extensive changes to existing activities and revisions to the terms of thousands of legal agreements.”

The group also emphasized that TEFCA should ultimately “address real, material gaps in current exchange networks, frameworks and agreements,” noting that a specific area where it could to a lot of good is with the “harmonization of agreed upon purposes for exchange and use of information.”

“We have learned through our own operations that seamless nationwide sharing of health information is most readily enabled through trust agreements, consistent policy and technical requirements, and appropriate, balanced governance to provide assurance of trust and interoperability,” said Mariann Yeager, CEO of The Sequoia Project.

“The Sequoia Project was selected through a competitive process to help with the interoperable flow of health information,” added National Coordinator for Health IT Dr. Don Rucker. “We look forward to working in close collaboration with The Sequoia Project and across the broader health system to create a Common Agreement that best serves the needs of all stakeholders.”

Healthcare IT News is a publication of HIMSS Media.

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