The Department of Veterans Affairs has recruited Rasu Shrestha, MD, chief innovation officer at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, to lead the VA’s Open API Pledge initiative in which healthcare organizations voluntarily collaborate with the agency to map health data to industry standards.

The VA announced the Open API Pledge initiative earlier this month at the HIMSS18 conference in Las Vegas, which calls on providers to support current and future versions of HL7’s Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR).

So far, 11 health systems have signed the pledge including the Cleveland Clinic, Geisinger, Intermountain Healthcare, Mayo Clinic, Partners Healthcare and UPMC.

“There is no moment greater than now for the industry to step up and make their voices heard to push towards real and meaningful interoperability,” said Shrestha in a written statement. “This is an important moment for the private sector to answer the (VA) Secretary’s call and work with our vendors to make information flow and use as freely accessible as possible to make care safer and better for veterans.”

Rasu Shrestha, MD
Rasu Shrestha, MD

“I am excited to see this vision become a reality and am actively seeking other healthcare systems to join our pledge, and ask developers to take part in our Lighthouse Lab, so we can shape a new direction for healthcare together,” said VA Secretary David Shulkin, MD.

Also See: VA launches platform for developers to build apps for vets

Next month, those provider organizations that have made the pledge will meet for the first roundtable discussion and commit to working with the VA and standards community to implement the existing Argonaut Project implementation guides for the FHIR API.

The Argonaut Project is a collaboration of health IT vendors and providers seeking to accelerate the adoption of FHIR by creating “road-tested” implementation guides accessible to developers to build interoperability capabilities according to modern Internet architectures.

The healthcare organizations that have committed to the VA’s Open API Pledge initiative will participate in testing draft specifications for scheduling, clinical notes, questionnaires and encounters, as well as implementing access standards for veterans, clinicians and the care teams that serve them, according to the agency.

Micky Tripathi, manager of the Argonaut Project, said he is excited about this initiative, adding that Shrestha is a “terrific evangelist” for the effort with UPMC leading the way with real implementation activity.

“It’s great to see areas where the federal government is leading by example rather than regulation,” Tripathi observes. “The Argonaut implementation guides are already being implemented by major EHR vendors and consumer technologies such as the Apple iPhone, and VA’s Lighthouse Lab both validates and accelerates these industry efforts. The Open API Pledge is a motivating call-to-action, but we need to make sure that the VA, private providers, and vendors follow their pledges with real implementation and adoption. The VA deserves a lot of credit for taking this step, and I hope that it serves as a model for other parts of the government who are big market players such as the DoD and CMS.”

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