Advancing Nationwide, Trusted Health Information Networks

Seth Pazinski; Peter Karras and Kim Lundberg | April 2, 2024

Health IT has become integral to health care delivery and this trend has accelerated since the passage of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act of 2009. Hundreds of thousands of physician offices, hospitals, and health systems now use ONC-certified health IT to store, process, access, exchange, and use electronic health information (EHI), setting the groundwork for nationwide interoperability. A new report to Congress provides updates on this progress led and coordinated by ONC. The report focuses on the significant work done over the past year to connect nationwide, trusted health information networks and serves as a progress update to the 2020-2025 Federal Health IT Strategic Plan. 

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Figure 1

While HINs and HIEs nationwide have made considerable progress, each has certain limitations that the Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement, or TEFCA, is designed to address.

The report highlights the important milestones under the Trusted Exchange Framework and Common AgreementSM, or TEFCASM, including the designation of seven Qualified Health Information NetworksTM  (QHINsTM). TEFCA is designed to scale EHI exchange nationwide so individuals, health care providers, health plans, and others have secure access to EHI when and where it is needed. ONC is pleased that most U.S. hospitals are aware of TEFCA and plan to participate.

In the coming years, ONC expects that TEFCA will scale to more organizations and create a pathway for modern health information sharing. As patients use the health care system, they will begin to experience the benefits from these connected health information networks under TEFCA. Patients with multiple health care providers will benefit from more connected health care and the ability to more efficiently access and manage their own health information.

ONC thanks Congress for their continued commitment to expanding the use of health IT since the passage of the HITECH Act, as well as for the passage of the 21st Century Cures Act, which envisioned TEFCA.

To learn more, check out the report to Congress.