Initiate Systems takes federated approach

One of the major concerns for potential participants in regional health information organizations (RHIOs) is the safety of the patient data they share with other members of the organization, something Initiate Systems Inc. is tackling in the latest version of its widely used Identity Hub software.

Identity Hub version 7 includes what Initiate calls a 'federated data model' that allows users to both access and present data virtually, without needing to actually store the data in a central repository.

Instead, said Scott Schumacher, senior vice president and chief scientist of Initiate, the software creates a central registry of where available data is. When users ask for data, a query is generated and sent to where that data resides, a process that's aided by a data matching algorithm developed by Initiate.

'It requires data providers to expose their data to Web services or to some third party systems and so some work is required on their end,' Schumacher said. 'But the advantage is that they can adjust their models to provide their data on a timely basis.'

There is clearly a concern over centralization of data, he said. Initiate software is used by the MA-SHARE health IT network that links some 20 million medical records across three states, is a key component of Canada's electronic health record initiative, and is used by more than 1,500 healthcare sites worldwide 'and we have never had a request for proposals that required (centralization),' he said.

Future versions of Identity Hub will likely provide users with even tighter and more flexible local control of their data, Schumacher said, so they can have a more defined say over when their data is shared and with whom.

'The current version of the software will take care of the needs of local data exchanges because they operate in a mode of high trust between their members, who all tend to know each other,' he said. 'But for the kinds of national exchange models that are being considered they'll have to share data beyond that local region, so they'll need more control.'

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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