The Sequoia Project will serve as the Recognized Coordinating Entity for the Common Agreement component of TEFCA.
ONC has awarded a cooperative agreement to The Sequoia Project to serve as the agency’s Recognized Coordinating Entity (RCE), responsible for developing, updating, implementing, and maintaining the Common Agreement portion of the Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement (TEFCA).
The Common Agreement will create the baseline technical and legal requirements for health information networks to share EHR data and is part of ONC’s implementation of the 21st Century Cures Act.
With the Cures Act, Congress asked HHS to advance trusted exchange of EHR information among health information networks through TEFCA. The Cures Act focuses on trusted exchange to improve transparency and facilitate competition throughout the healthcare industry by addressing the barriers to secure health information sharing.
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In addition to developing and updating the Common Agreement, the RCE will partner with ONC to designate and monitor Qualified Health Information Networks (QHIN).
The RCE is also responsible for modifying and updating accompanying QHIN technical requirements, engaging with stakeholders through virtual public listening sessions, adjudicating noncompliance with the Common Agreement, and proposing sustainability strategies to support TEFCA beyond the cooperative agreement’s period of performance.
ONC announced the funding opportunity for the RCE in April 2019, shortly after releasing a second draft of TEFCA. In the announcement, ONC stated that the RCE would receive a $900,000 grant for the first year of contract, along with funding in additional years contingent on the availability of funds and the RCE’s ability to sufficiently meet contract milestones.
“The Sequoia Project was selected through a competitive process to help with the interoperable flow of health information. 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,” said Don Rucker, MD, National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.
The second draft of TEFCA supports network-to-network health data exchange on a national level. In comments submitted to ONC in June 2019, the Sequoia Project expressed its support for the role and selection criteria of the RCE as included in the second draft.
However, the collaborative also recommended that the RCE cooperating agreement be strengthened by enhanced mechanisms to engage with QHINs, their participants, and participant members as the Common Agreement evolves over time.
The Sequoia Project also recommended that ONC be more explicit about how fees charged by QHIN participants and participant members are handled through the Common Agreement. Specifically, the collaborative advised ONC to include information in the draft about any limits on fees or requirements for the purposes of transparency.
“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.”
With this award from ONC, the Sequoia Project will oversee the development of the Common Agreement and aim to improve health information exchange.
“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. We look forward to working alongside ONC as the Recognized Coordinating Entity,” said Mariann Yeager, CEO of The Sequoia Project.
Date: September 18, 2019