CONNECT Project Transitions to the Private Sector

Avinash Shanbhag and Sherilyn Pruitt | September 5, 2019

This past decade, we have witnessed steady improvements to healthcare interoperability. For those paying close attention, the CONNECT open source project has played a role in making those improvements possible. Now the time has come for the community at large to determine the future of CONNECT.

CONNECT was jointly developed 10 years ago by a group of federal agencies in the Federal Health Architecture (FHA). The project started in response to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology’s (ONC’s) original approach to a nationwide health information network. The agencies opted to build a joint health interoperability solution, instead of each agency developing a custom solution to connect, and they had the forethought to make the project open source.

This decision ensured CONNECT software was available to any organization, including non-governmental organizations, that needed a technical means to connect to the network, which ultimately became the eHealth Exchange. The CONNECT software was designed to enable healthcare providers, insurers, federal agencies, states, and other stakeholders to exchange health information with other organizations nationwide through online networks and health information exchanges.

Over the course of CONNECT’s history it has served many roles. It electronically connected federal agencies and private sector organizations to the eHealth Exchange. It provided code reused by private developers as part of their own electronic health record (EHR) and interoperability solutions. And notably, it helped test early interoperability specifications, which allowed standards development organizations to better provide feedback and promote standards.

We have watched the ongoing development of CONNECT and appreciate the hard work by our federal partners to ensure its success. By implementing and testing emerging healthcare interoperability standards, the federal agencies that support the development of CONNECT performed a real service to our country.

The FHA led the project in coordination with its managing partners, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Defense, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Social Security Administration. These four federal partners funded the project, but project contributions came from twenty federal agencies as well as dozens of private sector companies. Today, portions of its open source code can be found in private sector offerings across the industry.

After ten years of FHA stewardship, federal CONNECT development will end in September and the project will be released to the private sector. The final version of the software, CONNECT 5.3, was released in July 2019 and is available online.  Like the eHealth Exchange and ONC’s Direct Project, CONNECT’s future will soon be available to everyone.