HHS keeps health net options open

HHS NHIN RFP Open Source Amendment

The Health and Human Services Department plans an open-source set-aside for one of the six contracts it wants to award for prototypes of a Nationwide Health Information Network (NHIN).

HHS, in a July 1 amendment to its request for proposals for the NHIN, said it will set aside one unrestricted award for open-source software which meets the following criteria: free redistribution, inclusion of source code, permission for modifications and non-specific licensing.

Dr. Richard Pico, chief medical and technology officer in Perot Systems' health care division, said HHS is looking for a vendor or consortium to develop open-source software for the national health data highway, designed to interchange information between systems from different electronic health record (EHR) systems.

Pico added that the open-source amendment deals with software for managing the exchange of information between EHR systems, not with EHR software itself, such as Department of Veterans Affairs’ Veterans Health Information Systems and Technology Architecture (VISTA) software.

“HHS is looking for a Red Hat for the NHIN,” Pico said. Red Hat sells and maintains and open-source version of the Linux open-source operating system software. Pico said HHS is looking for a vendor to do the same for the underlying code for the NHIN.

The NHIN request for proposals asks vendors to design and develop a prototype network that could operate in three health care markets.

The proposal states that the prototype must be suited to real world health care environments, such as doctors' offices, hospitals, clinics and labs. Vendors must demonstrate how their prototypes would exchange electronic health record (EHR) information among health care providers in different settings.

If HHS does not receive an open source bid, the department will dissolve the set aside and reserves the right to award six non-open-source contracts, according to the amendment.

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