ONC sets standards, specifications for API challenge

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT has issued a challenge to industry seeking application programming interface (API) solutions that will enable consumers to securely and electronically authorize the movement of their health data to destinations they choose.

According to Caroline Coy, a HIT program analyst in ONC’s Office of Standards and Technology, one of the goals of the Move Health Data Forward Challenge is to help fill significant gaps in health information exchange that are having a negative impact on patients.

“One in three individuals who’ve seen a healthcare provider in the last year experience gaps in information exchange,” Coy said during a June 7 webinar on the challenge. “These include: having to bring an X-ray, MRI, or other type of test result with them to their appointment; waiting for test results longer than they thought was reasonable; having to redo a test or procedure because the earlier test results were not available electronically; having to provide their medical history again because their chart cannot be found; and having to tell their healthcare provider about their medical history because they had not received their records from another healthcare provider.”

Coy said that ONC has collaborated with several health IT stakeholders to develop a set of privacy and security specifications designed to enable individuals to control the authorization of access to their health data. One such initiative is the Health Relationship Trust (HEART) Working Group, an effort that leverages RESTful health-related data sharing APIs, as well as open standards such as OAuth 2.0 security profiles, OpenID Connect, and User Managed Access.

Participants in ONC’s challenge will help to create API solutions combined with the new implementation specifications developed by the HEART Working Group, according to Coy. “The challenge teams will test the HEART technology and create an open API that enables health data sharing,” she said.

The challenge has three phases, with a cumulative prize amount of $250,000 and a maximum prize value per participant of $75,000.

Phase 1, the proposal phase, will award $5,000 to as many as 10 winners, based on submitted proposals. Those winners then will proceed to Phase 2—the prototype and pilot phase—in which as many as five finalists will be awarded $20,000 each based on prototypes. The data for the API and solution must be provided by Phase 2 finalists.

The final five Phase 2 awardees will move on to Phase 3, where $50,000 each will be awarded to up to two winners, based on their ability to implement their solution. This final phase will involve testing the solution in “real-life” situations.

Adam Wong, management and program analyst at ONC, said the deadline to apply for Phase 1 is September 8, and that the winners will be announced in late October or early November of this year. In addition, Wong indicated that the Phase 2 deadline is January 16, 2017, and the winners will be announced in late February or early March of next year. He also said the Phase 3 deadline is May 1, 2017, and final winners will be announced at the end of May or early June next year.

ONC is encouraging challenge applicants to apply independently or as a team, including health IT developers and healthcare providers with appropriate expertise.

Additional information on the challenge can be found here.

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