Health Law Daily Developers challenged to make new health data accessibility apps
Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Developers challenged to make new health data accessibility apps

By Kayla R. Bryant, J.D. and Sarah E. Baumann, J.D.

The health information technology (IT) sector has been challenged to create software applications (apps) that provide better electronic health record (EHR) usability for both consumers and providers. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) has offered financial awards for each type of app, as well as funding opportunities for the development of an open resource for application publishing and comparison. EHRs have been widely adopted, but users experience difficulty aggregating information from various resources and analyzing it in one place.

Consumer-faced app. In an advance release of a notice to be published in the Federal Register on March 3, 2016, the ONC revealed that the consumer-faced app challenge would involve two phases. Developers are to submit technical and business plans for the app by May 30, 2016, and then submit a working application by November 7, 2016. The final application must use the Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) draft standard for technical use 2, aggregate all data in the 2015 edition common clinical data set, be compatible with different IT developer systems, undergo testing with patients, and be available through at least one of the following options: mobile web, iOS Store, or Android Store. Up to five phase one app proposals will be declared winners and awarded up to $15,000. Following the second phase, a grand prize winner will receive $50,000 and a second place winner will receive half that amount, with another $25,000 available for the app that connects to the greatest number of developer systems.

Provider app. The ONC outlined the requirements of the “provider user-experience challenge” in another advance release. This challenge will also operate in two phases with the same submission due dates as the consumer app, and have the same requirements and potential awards. However, the goal of this app is to provide a more intuitive clinical workflow for providers that can be specified to their area of practice, and be actionable. Steven Posnack, Director, ONC Office of Standards and Technology, referred to separate challenges for apps geared toward consumers and providers as “showing love to both communities.”

National Coordinator/Acting Assistant HHS Secretary Karen DeSalvo appeared at the Healthcare Information Management Systems Society (HIMSS) 2016 annual conference and described the third challenge as an app discovery site, where providers can compare the products and select the technology that best suits their needs. DeSalvo discussed the app challenge on Tuesday at the HIMSS conference and emphasized the apps’ potential usefulness by describing a scenario in which someone injured on vacation would be able to get EHR right away from an out-of-state provider or simply provide that information directly from a consumer app. Acting CMS Administrator Andy Slavitt indicated that, among other health IT developments, he was most excited about these challenges.

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