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ONC Releases TEFCA Interoperability Framework for Data Exchange

The TEFCA interoperability framework is set to improve data exchange for enhanced provider access to patient health information.

ONC and its Recognized Coordinating Entity (RCE), The Sequoia Project, Inc., have announced the publication of the Trusted Exchange Framework and the Common Agreement (TEFCA) interoperability framework.

Entities will soon be able to apply to be Qualified Health Information Networks (QHINs). These networks will connect to one another to support health information exchange nationwide.

The 21st Century Cures Act calls for the development of a trusted exchange framework and a common agreement. The Trusted Exchange Framework is a set of non-binding but foundational health information exchange principles, while The Common Agreement establishes the technical infrastructure and governing approach to support data exchange.

The Common Agreement’s flexible structure allows stakeholders—like health information networks, ambulatory practices, hospitals, health centers, federal government agencies, public health agencies, and payers—to benefit from the interoperability framework through improved access to health information.

Patients will also be able to benefit from TEFCA by seeking access to their personal health information through entities that offer individual access services, ONC officials said.

ONC also released the TEFCA Health Level Seven (HL7) Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resource (FHIR) Roadmap which outlines how TEFCA will accelerate the adoption of FHIR-based interoperaiblity across the industry.

“Operationalizing TEFCA within the Biden Administration’s first year was a top priority for ONC and is critical to realizing the 21st Century Cures Act’s goal of a secure, nationwide health information exchange infrastructure,” Micky Tripathi, PhD, national coordinator for health information technology, noted in a press release.

“Simplified nationwide connectivity for providers, health plans, individuals, and public health is finally within reach,” he said. “We are excited to help the industry reap the benefits of TEFCA as soon as they are able.”

As the RCE, The Sequoia Project will oversee the development, implementation, and maintenance of the Common Agreement and stewardship of the QHIN Technical Framework, which is the technical specification for how QHINs connect to one another.

The Sequoia Project will also play a central role in designating, onboarding, and providing oversight of QHINs, ONC officials explained.

“The release of TEFCA today marks the beginning of the implementation phase,” said Mariann Yeager, CEO of The Sequoia Project. “This is a very exciting milestone that reflects the thoughtful feedback of public and private stakeholders throughout the process.”

“We look forward to supporting everyone as they review the Common Agreement and identify their role in this new public-private paradigm advancing health information exchange nationwide,” Yeager continued.

The RCE will be hosting a series of public engagement webinars to provide further information about TEFCA. It is anticipated the initial QHINs will onboard to TEFCA to begin sharing data with one another this year.

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