RESTful Health Exchange

By Brian Ahier
08:33 AM

I have been involved in a new S&I-affiliated initiative called RESTful Health Exchange (RHEx), which will test application of the REST-style (Representational State Transfer) architecture to health information exchange. REST is a popular approach of accessing and managing remote resources on the Internet that relies on a stateless, client-server, cacheable communications protocol. RHEx is attempting to develop specifications for secure RESTful transport for healthcare exchange to be used in conjunction with SOAP and SMTP currently being used in Exchange and Direct.

RHEx is billed as a open-source, exploratory project to pilot proven web technologies that support simple, secure, standards-based health information exchange. RHEx continues the government 2.0 tradition of federal partner investment to find innovative solutions to their health IT needs and share the results of their investment with the entire health IT community.

The RHEx project is funded by the Federal Health Architecture (FHA) program to help address the September 2011 NwHIN Power Team draft recommendations to the HIT Standards Committee to consider REST as a complementary technology to health information exchange. The FHA is an initiative led by the ONC to coordinate the health information technology efforts of the nearly two dozen federal agencies that provide health care services. The FHA is led by the departments of Defense, Veterans Affairs and Health & Human Services (HHS) with more than 30 additional participating agencies. Having this project run by the FHA as an S&I Affiliate provides clear benefits and savings across agencies. As Vish Sankaran, former program director has said, "You build the software once under the FHA and agencies can use it multiple times."

As an S&I Affiliated Project, RHEx is intended to inform a path forward for REST and explore an approach that facilitates:

  • Patients’ ability to securely access and manage their health information over the World Wide Web (WWW) while preserving their privacy;
  • Providers’ ability to obtain and exchange health information with each other to support patient care; and
  • Organizations’ability to leverage technologies widely used on the web to foster health IT solutions that are relatively easy to implement and maintain.

The RHEx team made a presentation to the NwHIN Power Team of the HIT Standards Committee on Thursday, July 26, 2012. The slides below are synced to the audio from this presentation:


Brian Ahier works as Health IT Evangelist for Information Systems at Mid-Columbia Medical Center. He is a City Councilor in The Dalles, Oregon and also serves on the Board of Mid-Columbia Council of Government, and Q-Life, an intergovernmental agency providing broadband capacity to the area. He blogs regularly at Healthcare Technology & Government 2.0.