Allegheny County to use technology that could power RHIO initiatives

By Healthcare IT News
12:00 AM
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A new technology that will be used by the health and human services department of Allegheny County in Pennsylvania could have wide application as regional organizations seek to share healthcare data.

Allegheny County, which encompasses Pittsburgh and its suburbs, will more fully deploy the technology now that it has completed an eight-month pilot project. The rollout will include 600 community groups and 250,000 residents receiving services.

Through the technology, developed by Pittsburgh-based MAYA Design, the county's health department can make referrals that integrate a variety of information.

The data can include available appropriate specialists, bus route schedules and the location of service clients. It can fuse data into a digital library that can be accessed by any staff member in the department.

More broadly, it will give residents receiving services the ability to look for information themselves, said John Pierce, deputy director of the office of information management for the county's department of human services.

"What we're really looking for is to make ourselves really public and let them know what services we provide," Pierce said. Information on the broad range of services in the county will be made available online.

MAYA Design, a spinoff of Carnegie Mellon University, is a design consultancy and technology research lab. Its Information Commons technology can scale to such an extent that it could be used to enable regional health information organizations to pull together information from diverse sources, said Josh Knauer, director of advanced development for MAYA.

The application is database driven and uses an architecture that enables the Internet and attached computing devices to function as a single information system. It creates a permanent, interactive and ubiquitous data store. Because it's based on peer-to-peer technology, users can add to the data in addition to just viewing it.

The technology enables information to be universally accessible, regardless of user platform or interface, and continue to exist even if information may be deleted from the original source.

"The underlying technology has come after 15 years of research, $50 million of it federally funded," Knauer said. "It allows for one big database to be shared in a distributed fashion."

Knauer said MAYA knows its technology could be applied in RHIOs and is already in discussions with several initiatives.

"Everyone is looking to this pilot as one clear example of how we might be able to show how data can be exchanged," he said.