International collaboration addresses EHR interoperability

Government agencies, standards organizations, universities and industry vendors from around the world have joined forces to create an open-source software development, Open Health Tools (OHT), to develop common tools to improve healthcare products and services interoperability and to accelerate EHR adoption.

OHT’s Common Health Interoperability Framework will enable these tools to be available for free using standardized, open interfaces and a set of reusable software components that can be assembled into systems and products by health systems and vendors, Skip McGaughey, executive director of OHT, founder of the Eclipse Foundation, told Health Imaging News.

The OHT has based its governance, legal and intellectual property policies, development processes, marketing, and business models on Eclipse and is being made available in open source under the Eclipse Public License (EPL), McGaughey said.

 “Advancements in medical procedures and patient care have changed the way the world views health and wellness. However, modern healthcare IT has not kept pace with the complexity of today’s healthcare systems,” he said. “There is a critical need for interoperability between healthcare systems and the consistent and seamless exchange of accurate data.”

The results of the international collaboration will be available under an open source agreement so anyone can use them to provision interoperable healthcare platforms that will link clinics, hospitals, pharmacies and other points of care to make the healthcare system more efficient, McGaughey said.

The technical goal of OHT is to assemble and/or develop a comprehensive, harmonized tool suite to enable the definition, development and deployment of interoperable EHRs.

The complexity of both modern IT platforms and the healthcare domain means that first-class tools are an absolute necessity, especially related to imaging technology, according to McGaughey.

“We see the use of imaging technology within healthcare as some of today’s most advanced technology in the world,” McGaughey said. “OHT will work with engineers and developers to bring a suite of multi-platform and multi-language tools which will assist in the interoperability of images across rural, urban and international users.”