ONC Names The Sequoia Project as Coordinators of TEFCA

A health information network concept

The Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement (TEFCA) took an important step forward recently with the appointment of a Recognized Coordinating Entity (RCE).

Following the first two drafts of TEFCA, the identification of a RCE was a high priority for the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) along with outlining its role in implementing the policy, which stems from goals laid out in the 21st Century Cures Act. Its goal has been to create the baseline technical framework for health information networks to share electronic health information and end the process of information blocking.

Following the second draft of TEFCA, the ONC took feedback regarding the role of the RCE and began vetting organizations that could potentially play the role. Feedback provided identified the RCE’s goal as “working to form coalitions of current health information exchanges and networks to achieve the goals of TEFCA without limiting or assigning what roles these stakeholders are allowed to play.”

The conclusion that ONC arrived at was that the nonprofit public-private collaborative known as The Sequoia Project would be the best steward of health information’s future given its focus on interoperability.

“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,” Don Rucker, M.D., National Coordinator for Health IT, said in a statement.

The collaboration between ONC and The Sequoia Project will lead to the designation of Qualified Health Information Networks (QHINs). They will also monitor those networks and ensure that their technical capabilities are in line with the larger vision of a nationwide fully interoperable framework for health information exchange.

Why The Sequoia Project?

The selection is based on The Sequoia Project’s experience in implementing health information networks and operating as a central player in interoperability efforts. Stewards of the Nationwide Health Information Network and creators of the eHealth Exchange, Sequoia is no stranger to the challenges that providers and the system as a whole faces.

In addition to those organizations, The Sequoia Project helped develop Carequality, which has since become independent. Last year, the network-to-network trust framework announced that it had surpassed 14 million clinical documents were exchanged in the month of August.

The choice of The Sequoia Project doesn’t come as a surprise to many industry insiders. When submitting its feedback on TEFCA Draft 2, it essentially put itself forward as an ideal candidate for the RCE role.

“Our comments are based on our organization’s significant experience supporting large-scale, nationwide health data sharing initiatives, including assessments of interoperability and security capability of exchange participants,” Sequoia officials stated in the submitted comments.

“Through these efforts, we serve as an experienced, transparent and neutral convener of public and private sector stakeholders to address and resolve practical challenges to interoperability, including in-depth development and implementation of trust frameworks and associated agreements.”

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