ONC’s Open Source popHealth Tool Receives 2014 Certification

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) created popHealth External Links Disclaimer in 2010 as open source software that could import data, then calculate, display, and export electronic clinical quality measures (eCQMs). As of December 2013, thanks to the hard work of Northwestern University External Links Disclaimer, popHealth is now certified as a 2014 edition electronic health record module (CHPL Product Number: CC-2014-781600-3 External Links Disclaimer).

As open source software, popHealth is totally free. Anyone can download and use the latest version from its public GitHub repository External Links Disclaimer (although the certified version is not yet posted).

ONC is working to ensure that popHealth flourishes as a useful tool for providers, health information exchanges, states, and others. This is why ONC originally created popHealth and why the agency is supporting the transfer of the tool’s stewardship to the open source community.

Multiple Use Cases for the popHealth Software and its Parts

popHealth is in some ways a simple piece of software: It’s a data importer, user interface, and data exporter. However, it is highly sophisticated and versatile because it is standards driven and it leverages the same quality measure engine as Cypress External Links Disclaimer, which is ONC’s open source tool for certifying eCQMs within EHRs for Meaningful Use.

 

There are several notable examples of how popHealth has been used. Northwestern Medicine elected to leverage the complete tool as part of its enterprise data warehouse. They took the open source code, refined it, tested it, and then carried it through certification as an EHR module.

 

“We recognized early on that leveraging popHealth would not only help us measure and improve quality of care more quickly and accurately, but also provide a sustainable technical foundation for the future,” said Eric Whitley, Manager of Clinical Analytics at Northwestern.

“The standards-centric focus provides unparalleled interoperability for plug-and-play information exchange and analytics that lets us get back to the real job of focusing on the patient and not IT challenges,” he added.

States can employ the tool as part of their strategy for accepting electronic clinical quality measure submissions, which is required under Stage 2 of Meaningful Use. Wyoming Medicaid has incorporated popHealth into their EHR Incentive Program attestation system. The state also plans to use the tool to support a Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation award that is transforming practices into Patient-Centered Medical Homes.

We know of HIEs, public health departments, Regional Extension Centers, and others that have used the tool or its parts in a variety of other ways to support health care quality improvement. ONC is looking forward to hearing about future examples of how the tool is employed.

Transition of popHealth Governance to Open Source Community

ONC is in the process of transitioning stewardship of the popHealth tool to the open source community. This strategy was pursued because ONC believes that the tool will best flourish in the future if it is developed and supported by the growing community of robust users.

ONC held an initial stakeholder meeting on January 21 to accelerate the transition process. More than a dozen organizations participated in the highly productive day-long meeting. Additional information on the transition strategy, a recording of the meeting, and other materials are available on the popHealth website External Links Disclaimer.

There will be additional stakeholder meetings over the coming months, including one on March 20 from 10am-12pm EDT. For more information, please visit projectpopHealth.org External Links Disclaimer or contact John Rancourt (john.rancourt@hhs.gov).

 

2 Comments

  1. How would this further help the industry? Perhaps popularize this among EHR vendors to use this as a ‘plug-in’ for CQMs rather than develop everything from scratch and achieve some level of standardization in the process?

    • John Rancourt says:

      We have seen many uses for the popHealth tool. Some developers have used it as a reference implementation (which means a model) to better build their own tools. We suspect that some developers have done what you suggest, use it as a “plug in”. We are also aware of EHR vendors that help install popHealth for their clients for Meaningful Use of clinical quality measures. Others have used only parts of the tool in these ways, such as only using the data importer as a reference implementation. We think that all of the above help the industry.

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