Recognizing the opportunities and interest in integrated health information strategies, the National Committee on Vital and Health Statistics (NCVHS), which serves as the public advisory body for the Secretary of Health and Human Services on national health information policy, created a Workgroup on the National Health Information Infrastructure (NHII) in 1998. As defined in the Workgroup's official Charge:
The "NHII" is a set of technologies, standards, and applications that support communication and information to improve clinical care, monitor public health, and educate consumers and patients. It is not a unitary database. The broad goal of the NHII is health knowledge management and delivery, so that the full array of information needed to improve the public's health and health care is optimally available for professionals, policy makers, researchers, patients, care givers, and consumers. The NHII as a system should seek to improve and enhance privacy and confidentiality of personal health information. [http://www.ncvhs.hhs.gov/[http://www.ncvhs.hhs.gov/nhichrg.htm]
In October, 1998, the Workgroup presented a Concept Paper to the Department of Health and Human Services. [http://www.ncvhs.hhs.gov/hii-nii.htm] The paper stressed that the information within an eventual health information infrastructure would be diverse, reflecting the array of purposes outlined in the Charge. Multiple stakeholders have a role to play in the NHII's development and maintenance, including public agencies, health care and research institutions, professional and standards organizations, consumer organizations, and the telecommunications and computer industries. The Workgroup subsequently examined the content and functions of an NHII in light of developments in the field and in other countries whose efforts are described above. The Workgroup's current conceptualization of the NHII is detailed in the next sections.
As a complement to the NHII, the NCVHS, the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), and the Department of Health and Human Services Data Council have begun to articulate a vision whereby health statistics in the United States will mobilize new capacities and fulfill the potential to promote and protect the country's health in the 21st century. The 21st century vision interim report proposes ten principles for health statistics. The vision is intended to encourage the realization of the NHII, and represent specific health statistics requirements for the community health dimension. Both the 21st Century Health Statistics project and the NHII project will include regional hearings in the Fall and Winter of 2000 to enable individuals, communities, and professionals to contribute to a common understanding of the country's health information needs and articulate opportunities for improvement.