The Department of Health and Human Services has unveiled Connect 3.3, its updated open-source software that allows health information exchanges to be interoperable.
in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has
announced version 3.3 of Connect, the open-source gateway software that allows
health care IT developers to create health information exchanges. Operating in
the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, within HHS, the FHA manages health IT among 20 federal agencies.
States are actively setting up HIEs to allow electronic health records (EHRs) to be
Several government agencies built Connect to establish interoperability standards for the exchange of EHRs, including the
Food and Drug Administration, NASA, the Department of Homeland Security and the
National Institutes of Health.
"Connect makes it possible for organizations to securely exchange health data across the
Lauren Thompson, director of the FHA, told eWEEK
in an email.
The new version of Connect, announced on March 16, allows states and health care organizations to use data based on
Nationwide Health Information Network (NwHIN) specs between January 2010 and
July 2010. Made up of 25 member companies, NwHIN offers standards, services and
policies that enable doctors, insurance companies, pharmacies and other health
organizations to exchange health data online. The Obama administration approved
new NwHIN standards in July 2011.
In developing Connect, the government aimed to align the open-source software with HIE specs while allowing data to be shared
securely, Greg Turner, Connect product manager and contractor for the FHA,
wrote in a blog post
Oregon State University's Open Source Lab
hosts the Connect software, and
the FHA oversees the product.
The new version of Connect will provide more flexibility to health care organizations adopting the software. Large health care
organizations will benefit from the ability to cluster multiple instances of
the gateway, as well as "fan out" so that multiple messages for a
single transaction event can be transmitted to multiple locations, said Thompson
of the FHA.
Otherwise, providers would have to wait for messages to be processed before sending the next one, she explained. They also can
install fewer targeted services rather than supporting services that are not
being used by health care organizations.
"Customization was enhanced by the ability to support two versions of the specifications in
one instance of the gateway," Thompson said.
"To handle higher traffic volumes, Connect 3.3 supports multiple instances of the gateway
in a single implementation," wrote Connect product manager Turner.
It also adds benchmark testing and documentation on tuning, or
optimizing, the software performance.
It includes features for
patient discovery, document queries and information retrieval.
The FHA is working on increasing adoption by health care organizations and making it easier to link EHRs using older
versions of the software, according to Thompson.
"This means that implementers with older versions of Connect will be able to use Connect 3.3 with minimal or
no changes to their back-end systems," said Thompson. With backward
compatibility built into version 3.3, the FHA plans to ease adoption in
future releases by integrating a simplified API to link EHRs with Connect,
In addition, Connect has a "reference adapter" and a developer forum so
health care IT organizations can gather information on how to join EHR databases or back-end systems with Connect, said Thompson.
By December, ONC plans to spin off Connect into a distributed development program
in an open-source environment, according to Healthcare IT News