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Open Source’s Role in CONNECTing the Public and Private Sector Healthcare Community

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CONNECT is an open source software gateway that allows healthcare practitioners to exchange health-related information, regardless of where they are set up around the country and what computer systems and platform they use. Originally built by more than 20 federal agencies, this software solution uses Nationwide Health Information Network (NHIN) standards and governance as a framework to connect providers, insurers, federal agencies, states and others involved in supporting health and healthcare.

Rather than develop dozens of independent and proprietary solutions with identical and redundant functionality, federal agencies built CONNECT through the Federal Health Architecture program (an E-Gov initiative). The agencies delivered CONNECT in 2009, and today the open source solution is available to any organization for use free of charge. Since its release, in addition to product updates generated at the request of community members, CONNECT is currently building out functionality that will help end users meet the 2011 Meaningful Use criteria outlined by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT.

With the public launch of CONNECT, the Federal Health Architecture concurrently began the CONNECT Open Source Community and began recruiting participation from healthcare providers and payors, states, IT vendors and other stakeholders. Today the community is comprised of more than 500 organizations and is growing rapidly.

The CONNECT software and the community are “open” in every sense of the word. The software development process, technology needs definition and even the software itself is open to the community for discussion, improvement and contribution. Anyone with a stake in health IT is welcome to participate and have a voice in a solution that will impact the future of health IT in the U.S.

This level of openness and collaboration is unchartered territory for the federal government and is already delivering benefits for healthcare organizations, and ultimately for patients.

This session will provide attendees with an update on the CONNECT technology solution; an overview of how organizations are using the solution to create health information exchanges and tie into the NHIN; an outline of the benefits of participation in the NHIN to patients, care providers, payors, states and other health stakeholders; details on the benefits that a nationwide network of interoperable health IT will provide to citizens (ranging from improved healthcare and faster benefits administration to more quickly identifying and addressing public health emergencies); and an overview of the CONNECT Community.

Vish Sankaran

Federal Health Architecture, Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, Department of Health and Human Services

As the program director for the Federal Health Architecture, an E-Gov initiative managed by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Mr. Sankaran is responsible for bringing together and coordinating health IT activities for more than 20 federal agencies. Federal collaboration achieved through FHA is responsible for progress in a wide variety of health domains, including: improving healthcare for our Wounded Warriors, enhancing public health monitoring, accelerating disability eligibility determinations, advancing research, enhancing tribal health services, and supporting many other critical federal health mandates.

Mr. Sankaran’s leadership resulted in a major milestone for health IT interoperability in 2008 when six federal agencies and multiple private sector organizations demonstrated the ability to securely exchange information using Nationwide Health Information Network (NHIN) standards, constructs and governance. This groundbreaking health information exchange was made possible due to the CONNECT gateway software solution which was built by FHA and its federal partners.

In 2009, additional federal agencies and organizations began piloting CONNECT, and Mr. Sankaran’s leadership drove the first production use of NHIN-compliant health information exchange. He is now leading the charge to foster further development and adoption of CONNECT by building an open source community comprised of public and private sector members.

FHA and Mr. Sankaran have received multiple awards in the last year for accomplishments in promoting health IT interoperability, including being named to Federal Computer Week’s Fed 100 and receiving AFFIRM’s Leadership Award.

Before joining HHS, Mr. Sankaran serves as the director of information technology and product operations for CareScience Inc, a healthcare applications service provider that used cutting-edge research and methods to assist hospitals and health systems improve quality, care management, clinical performance and community data sharing. While with CareScience, Mr. Sankaran administered architecture and operations of multiple healthcare software products that included the Santa Barbara community regional health information exchange (RHIO).

Mr. Sankaran’s has a proven track record in the healthcare industry, specifically in leading and managing multi-million dollar, multi-site IT architecture and operations. He is an expert strategist, proficient in multiple applications, operating systems, programming languages, and IT security and privacy.

Mr. Sankaran attained an Engineering Degree from Bharathiyar University in India in 1992.

David Riley

Federal Health Architecture, Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, Department of Health and Human Services

David Riley is the CONNECT initiative lead for the Federal Health Architecture (FHA) Program in the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONCHIT). In this role, he facilitates consensus across a group of 20+ federal agencies and numerous private sector organizations and states to enhance health information sharing on a nationwide basis. He is also responsible for creating the product direction and overseeing product development for CONNECT. He has served as the Chief, Technology Discovery and Insertion directly for the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs. He is an experienced entrepreneur with startup experience in both the private sector and large scale IT projects in the federal sector. He is recognized for his skill in bringing together diverse groups with competing interests into working collaborations to tackle large scale complex problems producing working solutions in a reasonable timeframe on a budget. Mr. Riley is an Air Force Trained Primary Care Physician Assistant with a Bachelor’s Degree in Allied Health from the University of Nebraska Medical Center, College of Medicine. He served in the United States Air Force and was deployed during the Persian Gulf War.

Photo of Brian Behlendorf

Brian Behlendorf

The Hyperledger Project at the Linux Foundation

Brian Behlendorf is the collaboration advisor for the CONNECT project, bringing a depth of experience in open source projects to the team.

Co-founder and board member of various non-profits and for-profits in the tech sector, most specifically focused on Open Source: CollabNet, the Apache Software Foundation, and Mozilla. Now helping various collaboration and Open Source software initiatives in DC.

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