Tuesday, July 31, 2012

RESTful Health Exchange

I have been involved in a new S&I-affiliated initiative called  RESTful Health Exchange (RHEx), which will test application of the REST-style (Representational State Transfer) architecture to health information exchange. REST is a popular approach of accessing and managing remote resources on the Internet that relies on a stateless, client-server, cacheable communications protocol. RHEx is attempting to develop specifications for secure RESTful transport for healthcare exchange to be used in conjunction with SOAP and SMTP currently being used in Exchange and Direct.

RHEx is billed as a open-source, exploratory project to pilot proven web technologies that support simple, secure, standards-based health information exchange. RHEx continues the government 2.0 tradition of federal partner investment to find innovative solutions to their health IT needs and share the results of their investment with the entire health IT community.

The RHEx project is funded by the Federal Health Architecture (FHA) program to help address the September 2011 NwHIN Power Team draft recommendations to the HIT Standards Committee to consider REST as a complementary technology to health information exchange. The FHA is an initiative led by the ONC to coordinate the health information technology efforts of the nearly two dozen federal agencies that provide health care services. The FHA is led by the departments of Defense, Veterans Affairs and Health & Human Services (HHS) with more than 30 additional participating agencies. Having this project run by the FHA as an S&I Affiliate provides clear benefits and savings across agencies. As Vish Sankaran, former program director has said, "You build the software once under the FHA and agencies can use it multiple times."

As an S&I Affiliated Project, RHEx is intended to inform a path forward for REST and explore an approach that facilitates:
  • Patients’ ability to securely access and manage their health information over the World Wide Web (WWW) while preserving their privacy;
  • Providers’ ability to obtain and exchange health information with each other to support patient care; and
  • Organizations’ability to leverage technologies widely used on the web to foster health IT solutions that are relatively easy to implement and maintain.
The RHEx team made a presentation to the NwHIN Power Team of the HIT Standards Committee on Thursday, July 26, 2012. The slides below are synced to the audio from this presentation:


  1. Hi Brian -- good stuff, thanks for posting. It's amazing we need to "pilot proven web technologies" but we can put into production proprietary solutions for years with no pilots or discussion. I'm glad to see that FHA is moving on this and providing some sorely needed leadership - hopefully FHA can stand up and say "this is how it's done, it's easier than doing it yourself, just follow our lead." :-)

    1. I wish I could easily integrate Google + an Blogger comments. Some interesting discussion on this at http://plus.google.com/u/0/102493891906301577447/posts/LM7aYvGP4CY

  2. "...exploratory project to pilot proven web technologies..." i suppose you mean piloting this architecture as a new standard that will help providers to more easily get their systems integrated with an HIE?.

    would be great to see HIE do other stuff, like smart caching, normalization of data with the ability discreetly push deltas and provide analytics across disparate systems. hopefully shin-ny will be the one that will take HIE to it's anticipated 2.0 version.

  3. The brief reference to Hammer's post that morning is referring to this: http://hueniverse.com/2012/07/oauth-2-0-and-the-road-to-hell

    I'm sure debate on OAuth2 maturing will continue...

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  5. Nice Post.RHEx is attempting to develop specifications for secure RESTful transport for healthcare exchange to be used in conjunction with SOAP and SMTP.
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