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What is CONNECT?

CONNECT is a software solution that facilitates the exchange of healthcare information at both the local and national level. CONNECT leverages the Nationwide Health Information Network (NwHIN) standards, eHealth Exchange governance and the Direct Project specifications to help drive interoperability across health information exchanges throughout the country. Initially developed by federal agencies to support specific healthcare-related missions, CONNECT is now available to all organizations as downloadable open source software.

CONNECT can be used to:

  • Set up a NwHIN-conformant health information exchange
  • Establish connectivity to a regional network of health information exchanges
  • Set up an HIE capable of exchanging messages using the Direct Project specifications
  • Monitor and review gateway-to-gateway messaging
  • Record and track ATNA-compliant audit logs
  • Act as a testing platform for other NwHIN-compliant HIE systems 

The CONNECT Solution

Three primary elements make up the CONNECT solution:

  • The Core Services Gateway provides the ability to locate patients at other organizations, request and receive documents associated with the patient, and record these transactions for subsequent auditing by patients and other actors on the eHealth Exchange. Other features include mechanisms for authenticating network participants, formulating and evaluating authorizations for the release of medical information, and honoring consumer preferences for sharing their information. The NwHIN specifications are implemented within this component.
  • The Enterprise Service Components provide default implementations of many critical enterprise components required to support electronic health information exchange, including a Master Patient Index (MPI), XDS.b Document Registry and Repository, Authorization Policy Engine, Consumer Preferences Manager, HIPAA-compliant Audit Log and various other features. Implementers of CONNECT are free to adopt the components or use their own existing software for these purposes.
  • The System Administration Module is a user interface that allows implementers to easily manage CONNECT, track event and audit logs, configure Direct settings, monitor gateway traffic and test gateway-to-gateway connectivity and information exchange.

CONNECT’s Role in the Nationwide Health Information Network

The CONNECT Gateway layer is the reference implementation for the Nationwide Health Information Network, meaning that it is constructed to implement the standards and requirements outlined in the NwHIN specifications. Implementation of the eHealth Exchange-certified CONNECT gateway allows any health information network to onboard and conduct transactions across the eHealth Exchange without making any changes to the way they exchange data within their own network.

In addition to the CONNECT gateway itself, the CONNECT team actively participates in NwHIN-related work groups dedicated to improving the usability and scalability of the specifications. They also participate in weekly spec factory discussions and provide answers on the CONNECT forum when CONNECT adopters and implementers have questions regarding NwHIN standards and specifications. The team also keeps track of changes and improvements to the eHealth Exchange certification testing requirements to ensure that the CONNECT gateway remains conformant and adopters can pass all required certification test cases.

CONNECT’s Role in Promoting Meaningful Use

From the ONC Web Site:

“The Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs provide financial incentives for the "meaningful use" of certified EHR technology. To receive an EHR incentive payment, providers have to show that they are “meaningfully using” their certified EHR technology by meeting certain measurement thresholds that range from recording patient information as structured data to exchanging summary care records. CMS has established these thresholds for eligible professionals, eligible hospitals, and critical access hospitals.”

The CONNECT team continues to incorporate the latest Meaningful Use requirements into the gateway as they are set forth. The CONNECT program is committed to supporting healthcare organizations in their efforts to comply with Meaningful Use requirements to help them meet the requirements for CMS incentives.