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ONC Launches Distributed Query Project

September 7, 2011
by David Raths
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Standards framework to allow researchers to analyze data from multiple organizations

On Sept. 6, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology officially launched an effort to develop distributed query models to allow healthcare providers to access electronic health data across multiple health information sources.

The goal is to allow researchers to analyze data from multiple organizations without having to create large combined data sets.

An Open Government Initiative modeled after the Direct Project, Query Health will seek to develop standards and services so that distributed queries can be used to study and assess topics such as quality measures, public health surveillance, and chronic disease stratification.

Introducing the initiative, Farzad Mostashari, M.D., national coordinator for health information technology, highlighted some of the challenges the project is up against. Previous efforts at distributed query haven’t scaled up well, he noted, and query standards have been lacking.

But ONC wants to put resources into this effort, Mostashari said, because besides making sure there is meaningful adoption of electronic health records, another goal of ONC is to “do what we can together to enable a learning health system, while respecting patient privacy. We have an opportunity to turbocharge our understanding of population health, performance and quality and deliver insights for local and regional quality improvement.”

Ultimately the goal is to make it possible for every physician to have analytics tools that currently only sophisticated health IT organizations have, added Doug Fridsma, M.D., Ph.D., director of ONC’s Office of Standards and Interoperability. “We need to make sure this project has the input from the Health IT Policy Committee as well as other public/private partnerships,” Fridsma added. “Our approach has to be community-driven and consensus-based.”

Query Health is setting up an implementation group as well as clinical, technical and business work groups. They will work during September and October on requirements and specifications with the goal of achieving consensus on an approach by December and launching pilot projects by next April.


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