ONC releases Connect 3.3

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT has made available the next version of the Connect gateway software that incorporates the most up-to-date technical standards and descriptions for the nationwide health information network (NwHIN) Exchange to support functions like patient discovery and query and retrieval of documents.

Connect gateway and adapter software uses NwHIN standards and services to enable healthcare organizations and federal agencies to share patient information securely through the Internet.

[See also: EHR/HIE Interoperability Workgroup agrees on connectivity specs]

In addition to the specifications, the Connect version 3.3 released March 16 is designed to improve performance and usability and prepare it for higher volumes, said Lauren Thompson, director of ONC’s Federal Health Architecture.

Federally developed Connect is an open source solution that can be used to set up health information exchange within an organization or tie an exchange into a regional network of health information exchanges (HIEs) using NwHIN standards and services.

Changes in the works

The Federal Health Architecture plans this year to develop a prototype to streamline and re-architect the set of software and services under the new name of Connect+ (ConnectPlus). 

“We plan to separate out the gateway from the adapter lines of code, which are fairly tightly coupled. That means it’s been difficult to implement for many organizations,” Thompson said at a March 15 conference about military electronic health records (EHRs).

Connect+ will have clearly defined interfaces and continue to use NwHIN technical specifications so it will become a portfolio for common software services to make it easier for organizations to choose and deploy what they need.

More changes are coming. By December, ONC will move Connect out of its purview to a distributed development program in an open source community and is considering a variety of organizational approaches, including adopting a custodial agent process, similar to the Veterans Affairs and Defense Departments to develop their integrated EHR.

The Connect move coincides with ONC's plans to stand up the NwHIN Exchange in October as a private non-profit business organization.

[See also: NwHIN Exchange set to 'stand on its own' this October.]

The NwHIN Exchange has been an organization for advanced exchange for primarily federal agencies and large healthcare organizations because of a requirement that limited participants to federal contractors or grantees.