The US Department of Health & Human Services has awarded contracts totalling $18.6m (£10.7m) to consortia led by Accenture, CSC, IBM and Northrop Grumman to develop four pilot health information infrastructures across twelve locations in ten states, and then release the designs into the public domain.

The four groups, the Nationwide Health Information Network (NHIN) consortia, will create a prototype infrastructure, using open data standards, and install it in three chosen locations. The companies will create electronic health records, authentication and access control systems and deploy them in hospitals, laboratories and clinics.

After the systems have been implemented and tested for security and feasibility, the designs will be released into the public domain in order to encourage further development by other firms. The timeframe for the implementation is one year.

David Brailer MD, national co-ordinator for health information technology, said that the contract awards were a vital step for moving from theory to reality in healthcare IT in the US. "These prototypes are the key to information portability for American consumers and are a major step in our national effort to modernise healthcare delivery."

The US’ published healthcare IT strategy, ‘The Decade of Health Information Technology’, stated that its first aim would be to encourage regional collaborations, before implementing a national healthcare information network.

The NHIN consortia will be required to work together to make sure that all the infrastructures they build will be compatible with one another, and that healthcare information can be securely and seamlessly exchanged.

Brailer told the New York Times: "This is a hands-off government approach. We’re not operating these networks, and we’re not procuring them."

Accenture will partner with companies including Oracle and Cisco to implement health infrastructures in Eastern Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia. CSC is leading a consortium including Microsoft and Sun to pilot projects in Indiana, Massachusetts and California.

IBM will also work with Cisco and a number of other companies in New York state and two sites in North Carolina. A consortium headed by Northrop Grumman will implement one system in Santa Cruz, California, and two in Ohio.

All the consortia leaders were contenders for contracts awarded by England’s National Programme for IT and two of them – Accenture and CSC – went on to become local service providers.

A new federal advisory committee has also been set up, the American Health Information Community. It will look at the work undertaken by the private sector and inform the government and industry about the results of the work.


Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC)