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Open Source SOA Connect at heart of government health care update

Health organizations determined to modernize will benefit from better sharing of data, but healthcare data needs to be handled in ways that ensure patient privacy. SOA efforts such as the open source Connect initiative may help meet these twin goals.

“One of the things we have all recognized is that for healthcare to improve, we need information to be available where and when it’s needed to those who are authorized to see it,” said Mary Jo Deering, Director for Informatics Dissemination at the National Cancer Institute, and a member of the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) for Health IT within the Department of Health and Human Services. Deering said governance will be an important factor in helping to move data where it is needed while making certain that protections for security and privacy are provided.

As part of that effort, the ONC for Health IT plans to establish governance standards for the Nationwide Health Information Network (NHIN). Related rulemaking should take a step forward this week with planned public hearings in Washington DC. Deering said the process will take off in mid-November when the NHIN presents the final recommendations to the Health IT policy committee.

Dr. Doug Fridsma, acting director of the Office of Interoperability and Standards, says this new governance is using a SOA-based approach. Companies within the NHIN and other federal partners use SOA to help support data exchange, Fridsma said. “Much of the work is around a service-oriented architecture in the way in which the [data] exchange occurs,” said Fridsma.

NHIN uses different tools related to SOA. One of the tools, Connect, is an open source initiative in the public domain that helps to promote interoperability in the healthcare system and also enables secure data exchange among healthcare providers and agencies. “Connect, takes the specifications that we have for the NHIN and creates the SOA software that is described in those specifications,” said Fridsma.

The fact that there’s a large open source community to help support the exchange is beneficial to the NHIN. According to Fridsma, it has helped to form the foundation for NHIN exchanges, and also helped with the work that’s going on with presidential initiative to improve health care.

The effort is ongoing. Just last week, the Federal Health Architecture (FHA) sponsored a Connect Code-A-Thon at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. to try out Connect Software and address related issues. The event included software developers from companies, health networks and universities.

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