Health IT

ONC launches tool for electronic health record research

Shutterstock image: medical professional interacting with a futuristic interface.

The new tech lab at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT launched with a web app designed to give users an overview of ongoing research into electronic health record interoperability.

Steve Posnack, Director of the ONC's Office of Standards and Technology, imagines the tool as a way to keep interoperability work going in between conferences, meetings and sessions of the ONC's Federal Advisory Council, which is tasked with improving the way commercial health records systems interact.

A lot of the work is "hidden in plain sight," Posnack told FCW. "If you're in the right meeting, you hear about this cool initiative and if you're not, you never would have known that it existed."

The Interoperability Proving Ground is a simple, searchable interface that lists ongoing research projects. Users can investigate what peers are working on, with an eye to both collaboration and avoiding duplication of effort.

The app is the work of the ONC Tech Lab, which  isn't an actual office full of coders.  It's more of an identity established for efforts inside ONC, whether in standards, technology, privacy or some other area, to push out lightweight, agile tools to their community. The team built the new app in about four months, including a soft launch and usability testing.

"We're matrixed and cross-functional," Posnack said. "Everyone is in and out of the Tech Lab construct every day."

The ONC was launched in 2004 and chartered by Congress in 2009 under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act, which established about $30 billion in subsidies for hospitals and practitioners that adopt medical records. Part of the ONC's job was making sure that industry settled on standards so that records could work together. According to Posnack, that effort is starting to take shape, which is why the time was ripe to aggregate and organize data around interoperability research.

"I think industry has mobilized itself in a different way in the past 12 to 18 months," he said, noting that the Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources standard for the electronic exchange of health information is gaining momentum. "There's more interest in testing tools, infrastructure and pursuing pilots in a more agile and earnest way across the nation," Posnack said.

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, New York Press, Architect Magazine and other publications.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.


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