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H H S Department of Health and Human Services
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Health Information Technology and Quality

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How do I develop a Health Center Controlled Network?

The process of developing a health center controlled network (HCCN) requires an integrated approach that addresses an array of technological, managerial, political, cultural, and sociological factors. A first step to starting a network is to create a vision for a shared scalable infrastructure; this vision, which often serves as a preliminary business plan, is then presented to the community for feedback. Do not underestimate the importance of achieving buy-in from the community; collaboration across multiple stakeholders is a critical ingredient to the creation of a successful HCCN.

There are several steps that need to be taken to develop a network. Potential members should be able to articulate changes in the local healthcare service and delivery system they would like to see made. The following steps should be completed early in the planning stages of network development:

  • Assess community
  • Identify potential partners
  • Identify the need and role for potential health IT functions
  • Document reasons to build a network (i.e. What would the mission/vision of this network be?)
  • What are some possible projects, priorities, time frames?
  • Prioritize functions and keep the number of functions small.

Once partners/collaborators and common projects and priorities are identified, network structure and governance should be considered. To avoid common road blocks, think early about the following issues:

  • Achieving buy-in from key stakeholders for the purposes of an HCCN
  • Identifying best-practice processes for resolving conflicting organizational missions
  • Establishing trust within and across the network
  • Clarifying roles and responsibilities within the network
  • Creating an HCCN Governance structure
  • Identifying best practices for managing finances and prioritizing projects

Many communities across the country have implemented HCCNs and can provide useful advice and guidance on the topic. A variety of tools and resources are also available to help Health Centers with health information exchange at the State, Regional, or Local levels. If possible, consult legal counsel before establishing network structure and governance.


Developed by the Health Resources and Services Administration as a resource for health centers and other safety net and ambulatory care providers who are seeking to implement health IT.
Health Information Technology Toolboxes help health centers, safety net providers, and ambulatory care providers with electronic and online resources and technical assistance to improve patient care.  More>
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