Friday, April 10, 2009

Federal Health Project Releases Open-Source Software Gateway

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The Federal Health Architecture project released into the public domain the code for Connect, a software gateway that will let organizations outside the federal government share health information via the National Health Information Network.

Any public or private sector organization can download the Connect software and tie into the NHIN once it goes into full production. The source code and its documentation are available at .

Connect will make the open versions of the core network services of the NHIN available to health information organizations, including identifying the patient, document query and retrieval, audit-log, retrieval, a messaging platform and an authorization framework.

Like most open-source projects, those that opt to use the solution will be responsible for costs associated with its installation and maintenance, noted officials from the Office of National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, which managed the Connect project.

Dr. Robert Kolodner, the national coordinator, said the “software will strengthen our health systems’ ability to share data electronically.” The benefits of NHIN interconnection, he said, include up-to-date records at the point of care, enhanced population health screening, and faster case research collection to facilitate disability claims.

The Social Security Administration became the first federal agency to use the gateway in a production mode in February when it began sharing data with MedVirginia, a health information exchange, to access health records from people applying for health-related SSA benefits.

Other federal agencies now using Connect for health information exchange includes the Department of Defense, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Indian Health Service, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Cancer Institute.

Vish Sankaran, the program director of the Federal Health Architecture, a collaboration of 20 federal agencies with health care responsibilities, said the potential impact of the Connect program was “enormous,” and would help pave the way toward the “lofty health IT goals” set for the project.

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