A key goal of the HITECH Act is to enable the secure exchange of health information to improve health and care. ONC, its Federal partners, and other stakeholders have been working through many programs to achieve this goal, including work on the nationwide health information network (NwHIN), the NwHIN Exchange, and the Direct Project. Until now, participation in the Exchange has been limited to Federal agencies and outside organizations that have contracts, grants, or cooperative agreements with them. However, with the evolution of both the NwHIN and the Exchange, ONC has determined that this limitation is no longer needed. Participants who currently participate under contracts, grants, or cooperative agreements can continue in that capacity, and when those formal relationships expire, their signature on the Data Use and Reciprocal Support Agreement (DURSA) is sufficient (along with other specified requirements). New entities wishing to join need only sign the DURSA and fulfill other requirements. This is effective immediately, and the number of new participants is expected to grow steadily over the course of 2012. This is an important step in supporting wider health information exchange for Meaningful Use and broader national goals for better health and health care.
Mary Jo Deering, Ph.D.
Senior Policy Advisor
Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
300 C Street, S.W., #1103
Washington, DC 20201