Health IT network prototypes to try real-world data uses

The Health and Human Services Department this month awarded $18.6 million in contracts to four groups of health care and health IT groups to develop four prototypes for a nationwide health information architecture'the final piece of the health IT foundation.

'The plan is for doctors and hospitals to have a low-cost, secure way to get data and to reduce their investment in customization and integration, and spend more on raw technology capacity. We're trying to jump-start the market,' said David Brailer, national coordinator for health IT.

Each contractor will produce a prototype within one year. In the process, common architectural components from the prototypes will be fed into a potential nationwide architecture.

'We essentially have the peripheral devices; we don't have the internal network infrastructure,' Brailer said.

Each contractor group will develop an architecture and prototype network during the year for secure information sharing among hospitals, laboratories, pharmacies and physicians in the participating markets. They will test information locator services, patient authentication, security protections and specialized network functions, as well as test the feasibility of large-scale deployment.

After one year, the best elements from each of the four prototypes under the latest contract will likely be brought together.

'It will involve taking the best architectural elements of the different prototypes and [tying them] together, perhaps not into a single architecture, but into one that has some variability to its implementation,' said John Loonsk, acting director for the office of interoperability and standards in Brailer's office.

Each of the architectures is expected to stimulate development of software to make functions work, such as how data is mapped, and how patient data will be searched and associated with just that patient.

The early uses for health IT that AHIC is considering are chronic-disease management/remote patient monitoring; consumer portal/personal health record/drug list; quality measurement; biosurveillance and e-prescribing.

The four companies awarded contacts are Accenture LLP of Chicago, Computer Sciences Corp., IBM Corp. and Northrop Grumman Corp.

They will work with eight states: California, Kentucky, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee and West Virginia.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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