Jumpstarting Health IT innovation

Until last month, I was lead architect on the SMART Project at Harvard Medical School and Children’s Hospital Boston (now I’m an advisor). One key issue that all Health IT folks grapple with is how to make the Health IT ecosystem more dynamic and innovative, because technology in that space moves so slowly. The SMART Project is one attempt to jumpstart Health IT innovation.

If you’re interested in this stuff, you might want to read the blog post I wrote on the SMART site about how SMART addresses the Presidential Report on Health IT. Key ideas:

  1. PCAST very eloquently identifies lack of interoperability as the central problem of healthcare IT. To spark innovation, PCAST proposes a universal exchange language, with atomic data elements and a strong metadata philosophy for privacy and provenance. We wholeheartedly agree.
  2. One of PCAST’s suggestions is to eschew efforts to define universal semantics, leaving to the market the task of semantic harmonization. While we agree that the market will significantly contribute to semantic harmonization, our experience indicates that an organized initial foray into standardizing semantics for common, well-understood health data is critical to getting the ball rolling.
  3. With SMART, we are building such a universal health language — inspired by existing standards and built on existing coding systems — and empowering with it a modern, web-based application ecosystem. We specifically address PCAST recommendations of data atomicity, metadata tagging, and semantic extensibility, while simultaneously addressing what some have identified as weaknesses in the PCAST report, notably the risk of incomplete patient context when working with disaggregated atoms of data.

More details over at the SMART blog.