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Vish Sankaran
Vish Sankaran

Feds release open-source NHIN gateway software


By Joseph Conn
Posted: April 7, 2009 - 9:00 am ET
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The open-source movement in healthcare was afforded significant federal affirmation this week as the software code to create a gateway between multiple federal organizations and the proposed national health information network has been made available for downloading and public use, according to an HHS announcement made at the 2009 Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society meeting in Chicago.

The federally developed, free and open-source software is called Connect. It was created under the auspices of the Federal Health Architecture initiative led by the Office of the National Coordinator at HHS.

Connect was released Monday, according to Federal Health Architecture Program Director Vish Sankaran, about the time Sankaran was making the announcement during an ONC town-hall meeting at HIMSS. Work on the software to connect more than 20 federal agencies began last year, Sankaran said.

Robert Kolodner, the outgoing head of the ONC, said in a news release that by working together the federal partners “collectively built a solution that provides benefit to all involved much faster and at a significantly reduced cost than if they had worked independently.” The result is a software gateway made available to “any public or private-sector organization that wants to use the solution in the future to tie into the" NHIN.

The three largest federal healthcare provider organizations, the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments and the Indian Health Service, all with significant investments in electronic health-record systems.

The Social Security Administration has also used the software in a production setting to exchange patient information with MedVirginia, a limited liability corporation based in Richmond, Va., that operates a regional health information exchange organization. Sankaran said in the release that work is not finished on Connect, "but with the support of the federal agencies and industry, we can accomplish the lofty health IT goals set at the national level."

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