How we get to the Health Internet

Summary:The Health Internet is coming on fast. Two open source projects are creating the standards industry will follow and the resulting change may be as sudden as the Web being spun.

Fred Trotter has a great summary out about how we get from today's health IT mess to a real Health Internet.

It's not a long trip.

It's really based on two open source projects:

  • CONNECT, which defines interoperability standards for exchanging health data, and
  • DIRECT, which defines network standards for moving the data.

How do you get on to these networks? Well, the meaningful use guidelines for that sweet, sweet stimulus cash include interoperability requirements, like those used in CONNECT. So it's not just cash, it's standards. And I've written about the rapid progress of DIRECT before.

A trial of all this has already begun.

With a secure connection you should be able to e-mail your doctor, and they should not fear e-mailing you. Faxing will go away. You will be able to have your records downloaded to a secure location you control. And when a hospital or another doctor needs your record, the doctor's office should be able to get it to them.

It's a problem with lots of layers. Identity. VPN design. File standards. Interfaces. All of which have to work on top of the  IP protocol.

Oh, and Fred notes that NHIN no longer stands for National Health Information Network. It stands for Nationwide Health Information Network.

That's because the bureaucrats who came up with the acronym failed to do a complete trademark search. Turns out a Fort Worth company holds the old trademark for their e-prescribe system.

That's not a big deal.

What is a big deal is that the Health Internet is coming on fast. Right now my regular doctor can get prescriptions to my pharmacist and records to the hospital where he has privileges. When my wife needed some imaging done recently, she just showed up at the right time, handed in her insurance card, and was out within minutes.

As that network is linked to other networks via NHIN standards, as the people who build networks and software come to adopt the CONNECT and DIRECT projects into their software, change will come swiftly.

It's easy to be cynical about something that has been delayed a long time, but that's the thing about computing. It doesn't work and doesn't work until it all works, then suddenly it works and we don't have to think about it.

Figure five years at the outside.

Topics: Tech & Work, Enterprise Software, Legal


Dana Blankenhorn has been a business journalist since 1978, and has covered technology since 1982. He launched the Interactive Age Daily, the first daily coverage of the Internet to launch with a magazine, in September 1994.

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