Electronic Health Records

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ONC Tabs $625K for Health IT, EHR App Development Contests

Three health IT development contests will help make EHR apps more user-facing, improving EHR usability.

By Sara Heath

A total of $625,000 is up for grabs in three new healthcare app and health IT developer contests, announced earlier this week by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT.

The agency has begun three different contests for healthcare app developers that ideally will result in new apps to improve healthcare delivery, care coordination, and patient engagement. Likewise, these competitions will ideally create discussions across the healthcare app developer community, fostering an environment in which they can make the best product possible.

The total $625,000 prize will be split amongst the three project, which aim at achieving different end goals for health IT use.

The first contest calls for healthcare app developers to create a patient-facing app that will help patients manage their health information. These apps should use standard APIs that will help them put all of their healthcare data, regardless of the original source, all in one space. The prizes for this contest can total up to $175,000.

The second contest calls for a provider-facing app that improve EHR usability. Recently, EHRs have taken a lot of heat for having limited navigability and for the lack of intuitive design. This leg of the contest would help alleviate some of those issues, as developers would be tasked with creating “apps that use open, standardized APIs to positively impact providers’ experience with EHRs by making clinical workflows more intuitive, specific to clinical specialty, and actionable.” The prizes for this contest can total up to $175,000.

The final contest will help improve health IT and EHR transparency and help provider choose the best systems for their needs. The contest requires developers create a website app that aggregates information regarding different EHR vendors and health IT programs, allowing providers to tap into different ratings of these systems. This site will also serve as a space where health IT developers and EHR vendors can publish their apps for users to more easily discover them. The prizes for this contest can total to up to $275,000.

According to ONC executives, these contests are a part of a larger effort to make health IT and EHRs more user-facing.

“This strategy will help us reach the consumer and provider-friendly future of health IT we all seek,” said National Coordinator Karen B. DeSalvo, M.D., M.P.H., M.Sc. “It reflects our guiding principles that consumers and providers should have easy, secure access to health information and the ability to direct that information when and where it is needed most.”

As the healthcare industry continues to adopt health technology at an increasing rate, ONC maintains that they must make these programs usable and effective in practice. Ideally, the private technology sector will be able to help provide solutions.

“While increased adoption of health information technology (health IT) has generated significant amounts of computable, electronic health information, technology that can pull information from different sources and present it in a user-friendly way is limited,” the agency explained in a press release. “HHS’s new strategy is designed to foster private sector innovation to help make health information available in user-friendly formats to enable consumers and providers to easily and securely access and share electronic health information.”

These efforts align with several of the more recently elucidated goals at the ONC. In recent weeks ONC, alongside other federal agencies, have expressed a need for better EHR usability as well as health IT transparency.

ONC has responded to those needs with not only these three contests, but with the development of a health technology lab. These labs will help promote and organize different projects to help health IT creation. The labs also include a “proving ground,” where different IT developers can explain the progress they are making as a means for creative discussion and collaboration.




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