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ONC app contest looks to improve physician workflow


Four winning apps work to generate better use of data collected by doctors in their EHR systems to improve patient care.

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) wants apps that can pull together data from electronic health records (EHRs) and other electronic sources and then present that information to physicians in user-friendly, actionable formats.

To encourage the development of such technologies, the ONC announced the Provider User Experience Challenge at the Health Information Management Systems Society (HIMSS) annual conference in March.

In July, ONC recognized four apps that best make electronic health information easier to access and use by clinicians. These four Phase 1 winners, out of 29 eligible submissions of apps either under development or existing ones updated with new capabilities, are:

·      Herald Health platform that leverages Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) to highlight patient information that enables highly customizable “if this, then that” alerts based on real-time EHR data.

·      Population Health Risk Assessment Support Engine (PHRASE) Health clinical decision support platform to help manage emerging illnesses by incorporating more external data sources to identify at-risk patients and by enabling information exchange between public health and frontline providers.

·      Collaborative effort from the University of Utah Health Care, Intermountain Healthcare and the Duke Health System for an app that will integrated with their EHRs to provide clinical decision support for timely diagnosis and management of newborn bilirubin according to evidence-based best practices.

·      WellSheet web application that utilizes machine learning and natural language processing to prioritize relevant information during a patient visit, taking multiple data sources and presenting information in a single screen.

Each Phase 1 winner receives a $15,000 award.


As part of this program, ONC challenged applicants to use the FHIR standard and open application programming interfaces (APIs) to make it easier to retrieve and share data from clinicians’ EHRs and other electronic systems.

Adam Wong, senior innovation analyst at ONC, said the federal agency hopes that such challenges spur more use of the FHIR standard to overcome interoperability challenges and enable more electronic information sharing. Moreover, he said such challenges encourage the development of apps that can generate better – and easier – use of the data being collected by doctors in their EHR systems.

“These are tools that improve workflows and make doctors’ lives easier by gathering data together and by making the data more accessible and actionable. [They] make sure doctors have all the relevant information at their fingertips,” Wong told Medical Economics.

As chief medical officer at Dell Healthcare & Life Sciences, Nick van Terheyden, MD, knows the health IT landscape and noted all four winners share common traits: data integration from multiple sources, building on existing standards as well as the new FHIR standard, and a focus on user design and interfaces for ease of use and navigation.

He said they also all have “functionality to meet existing pain points – managing family health, making the data quagmire in EHRs useable and actionable and integrating existing and newer data sources, [such as] wearables.”

Van Terheyden added: “Just presenting data in a useable and actionable format to allow [physicians] to quickly identify the key insights and freeing them up to focus on the patient will be a big win for any physician.”


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