HHS readies health architecture

The Department of Health and Human Services is working on an enterprise architecture plan that would include every federal department dealing with health care issues.

In discussing what could become the biggest enterprise architecture plan in the federal government, HHS' chief information officer Melissa Chapman said the idea is still in the planning stages but estimated it could be initiated in the next six to 12 months.

The plan would develop an enterprise architecture for federal health systems across departments, incorporating agencies such as the Defense Department; the Department of Veterans Affairs; the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, which deals with food importation; and the Environmental Protection Agency, which handles health issues relating to the environment.

"A federal health architecture would integrate component bases across government," Chapman said. "For the first time, we would use the federal enterprise architecture to get it done."

The plan also would include partnering with patient advocacy groups and private-sector health organizations, such as the American Red Cross, to develop the best architecture plan possible. In the next few weeks, she said, a request for information will be issued calling for ideas from private industry about how to get this done.

Chapman said an enterprise architecture for health systems would allow agencies to accurately track the availability of the nation's blood supply. It would also help establish data standards that would allow agencies to more easily share information.

Creating an enterprise architecture is one of the major requirements for agencies seeking money for fiscal 2005. And many in the high-tech field believe an architecture is the best way to effectively solve problems as varied as tracing the source of a health epidemic and finding the snipers who shot 13 people in the Washington, D.C., area last fall.

"How do we get from paper and pencil to fully utilizing this technology?" asked Dr. Claire Broome, senior adviser to the director for integrated health information systems at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Broome outlined how CDC's Public Health Information Network depends on interoperability to keep track of potential outbreaks and spot real ones.

"We have a huge data management challenge," she said, speaking in Savannah, Ga., at last week's semiannual CIO Summit, sponsored by FCW Media Group.

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