ONC partners demonstrate FHIR in action

By Jonah Comstock
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National Coordinator Dr. Vindell Washington may have been dealt a relatively short stint in the role, but he’s set on doing as much as he can in the time he has to advance to ONC’s interests of data sharing and interoperability.

Washington was on hand at the Connected Health Conference this week in National Harbor, Maryland to show off a demonstration of the FHIR (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources) protocol in action. In a Tuesday afternoon session with Epic, Allscripts, and Cerner, startups Medisafe, RxRevu, and CareEvolution all showed off their own FHIR-based apps that pulled data from EHRs to deliver an updating, de-duplicated medication list to a patient. The demonstrations were the culmination of a project begun at the HIMSS Annual Conference in February.

“At the HIMSS conference, [HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell] brought together many of the partners you’ll see on the stage and they made this pledge, or this voluntary agreement to share information,” Washington said. “There were a lot of stakeholder groups including provider organizations that they would engage in this. And one of the key aspects of this was the patient would be empowered to take that information and send it where it was needed for care for their own use. … The concept is you empower patients to get an interoperable list of their medications across a number of different sites where that information might be held. We felt that was one of the better focus areas that would allow us to address a missing piece in the process.”

Medisafe, RxRevu and CareEvolution each demonstrated their apps with the same fictional patient, "Mary", an elderly woman taking a number of medications and supplements. Different platforms allowed her to not just access an updated, de-duplicated medication list, but to pull it into the company’s own apps and share it with a family member or incorporate it into an adherence platform.

“The one specific thing I want to underscore is the idea that Mary has a choice in this activity,” Washington said. “We are trying to facilitate a world and a platform on which others can build and in which innovation can occur.”

Washington told Babyforyou.net.ua after the show that he believes the apps demonstrated are very close to being out in the world — a requirement of the demo was that it involve real technology and real connections to the EHRs.

“I think the real value proposition comes when we can propagate this in a relatively large swath,” he said. “Part of that is having the demonstration, the real data, something that will push and prick the demand.”

At his keynote speech earlier at the event, Washington looked back on how much the ONC has accomplished during the Obama administration, citing the near-universal propagation of electronic health records, but cautioned those present not to get complacent even as that administration enters its final days.

“Rarely in our history has this much changed so quickly,” he said. “It’s great now that EHRs are the normal course of business, but let’s go beyond the normal course of business. If there’s one thing I want you to remember, it’s that our mission, today, tomorrow, and into the future, is to unlock health data and to put it to use for the benefit of patients and their families.”

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