Two leaders of the federally-funded CONNECT initiative to develop open source, downloadable health information exchange software now head a new foundation created to take the lead in promoting and expanding use of the technology.

Three companies working under a federal contract developed CONNECT in 2008 and early 2009, and it was released in April 2009 to the open source community.

While there has been some acceptance of CONNECT in the health care industry--by such organizations as HealthBridge, Regenstrief Institute, Thayer County Health Services in Nebraska, and Redwood MedNet in California--federal agencies have adopted the software more readily than the private sector. Some software vendors also have developed commercial products based on CONNECT technology.

From the beginning, the government's plan was that a private sector organization would eventually take over management of CONNECT so the initiative could be more open to all participants in addition to federal agencies, but that hasn't happened until now. David Riley, president of The Alembic Foundation in Falls Church, Va., and Vanessa Manchester, COO, served as top staff for CONNECT in the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. "We realized if this was going to be done that we had to make it happen," Riley says. "To depend on government agencies to set up this stuff is out of the scope of what they traditionally do or want to do."

The foundation has copied the latest version of the software, CONNECT 3.1, private-labeled it as Aurion 3.1 and released it to the open source market on March 21. Even before the release the foundation was working on enhancements and will release Aurion 4.0 on May 3.

CONNECT 3.1, of which Aurion 3.1 is identical, has about 16 well-known bugs or enhancement requests that were not yet addressed. Aurion 4.0 will fix all of the issues and then the open source community can work to further enhance the software, Riley says.

The biggest enhancement in 4.0 is the support for "multiple assigning authority" to better identify organizations and information systems participating in health information exchange, Riley says. Organizations conducting HIE are assigned unique identifiers but more granular identification of specific I.T. systems and sites is needed and Aurion 4.0 will support this work. With the enhancement, for instance, a multi-site clinic may receive a single unique identifier, but the clinic then can add digits to the end of the identifier to identify specific systems and sites.

More information on The Alembic Foundation and Aurion is available at alembicfoundation.org and http://aurionproject.org/. The foundation will host a Web seminar on March 22 at 1 p.m. Eastern time. To register, click here.

--Joseph Goedert

 

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