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Background of the NHII and Workgroup

February 26, 2003

What is a "National Health Information Infrastructure" (NHII)? According to the National Committee on Vital and Health Statistics (NCVHS), an NHII underpins a "set of technologies, standards, and applications that support communication and information" about personal health information. The NCVHS notes that the goal of an NHII is not to create a unitary database, but rather to link information from multiple sources through interoperable technologies.

Moreover, the NCVHS points out, "The NHII includes not just technologies but, more importantly, values, practices, relationships, laws, standards, systems, and applications that support all facets of individual health, health care, and public health....The heart of the vision for the NHII is sharing information and knowledge appropriately so it is available to people when they need it to make the best possible health decisions." Unfortunately, it is not clear whether the NHII would permit individuals to decide whether they want their personal information to be shared and available to many others without their informed consent.

The Workgroup was established by the NCVHS in 1998. In addition to making recommendations for an NHII in the United States, the group's mission includes analyzing models from other countries.

This article was originally published in the January/February 2003 issue of Health Freedom Watch.