Sun’s Open Source Curing Health Care Woes

President and COO of Sun Federal Bill Vass’ Weblog is here.

Once the Inaugural celebrations are finished, the new Obama Administration promises to hit the ground running on a variety of critical programs. Near the top of the list is eHealth reform with more than $20 billion proposed in President Obama’s massive stimulus package.

The key to any eHealth reform program (no matter the price tag) is to facilitate information sharing across multiple agencies and to eliminate the information silos that exist today, allow the government to reduce costs and errors and to better serve our veterans, senior citizens and disabled.

Many have called me an open source evangelist (see Joab Jackson, Government Computer News). But once again, an open source pilot, which has been built and tested without a dollar of government expenditure spent on software, has done what proprietary solutions have not. Open source has enabled the secure and interoperable exchange of health care information across more than 20 organizations.

So, here is the background: If the Nationwide Health Information Network (NHIN) is the information highway for health data exchange, CONNECT is the universal on-ramp for federal agencies. CONNECT is a software solution that lets federal agencies securely link their existing systems to the NHIN. More than 20 organizations collaborated to build CONNECT through the Federal Health Architecture (FHA), and as a result, agencies are heading down the road toward interoperability.

Using Sun’s entire Open Source middleware stack as its foundation, including our SOA and IdM technology, the FHA built the CONNECT gateway software from open-source code. Talk about an Open Source poster child! The solution was jointly developed by federal agencies yet it will be deployed individually at the agency level. The decision to build the solution in open source provided the usual benefits (I know you have heard these from me before):

· Cost reductions for each agency and taxpayer savings

· IT consistency and compatibility across multiple agencies

· Decreased deployment times

· Security

The CONNECT initiative sped from concept to reality in 2008. In March 2008, FHA awarded a contract to develop the CONNECT solution. The solution was built with federal agency participation, and in September of 2008, three agencies were already demonstrating the ability to share information with the private sector through the NHIN. The number of participating agencies grew to six for the December 2008 demonstrations, and the plan is to have those six federal agencies participate in the NHIN by the end of 2009.

Once completed, the CONNECT software will be available to any stakeholders in the health information exchange community for download. The goal is for CONNECT to be a platform on which government and industry can innovate. This will allow the industry to build and sell better interoperable solutions to the healthcare sector.

We are happy to say that CONNECT Gateway will be made available to the public in March of 2009. Three primary elements make up the CONNECT Gateway:

· The Core Services Gateway provides the ability to locate patients at other health organizations within the NHIN, request and receive documents associated with the patient, and record these transactions for subsequent auditing by patients and others.

· The Enterprise Service Components, which provide default implementations of many critical enterprise components required to support electronic health information exchange, including a Master Patient Index (MPI), XDS.b Document Registry and Repository, Authorization Policy Engine, Consumer Preferences Manager, HIPAA-compliant Audit Log and others. Organizatons are able to use existing applications within the NHIN CONNECT Gateway and free to adopt the components or substitute their own implementations.

· The Software Development Kit (SDK) enables agencies to develop adapter components that integrate their existing electronic health information systems with the NHIN Core Services Gateway.

CONNECT has identified a number of opportunities for federal agencies to utilize the Gateway to address their mission needs in 2009 and beyond. These citizen-centric initiatives will provide a roadmap for 2009 development. Expected FHA activities include helping agencies deliver solutions that lower cost and improve access to and quality of care:

· Collect patient status assessments as they move among various care settings to track effectiveness of treatment

· Populate patient personal health records with information from federal and commercial systems

· Support health services in combating fraud and waste

· Improve coordination of benefits with other payer organizations

· Enhance onsite care for patients during disasters and other public health emergencies

· Support data collection for analysis of potential adverse events associated with drugs and medical equipment

· Help establish local networks among community health clinics that provide care to underserved populations

· Provides anonymous bulk test data for pandemic and bio terrorism analysts

If you haven’t noticed, open source has consistently been a major focus of nearly every new proposed IT program. Perhaps the CHANGE we will see will be the opening of our IT infrastructure.

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