popHealth App Challenge Launched by ONC and Health 2.0

Julie M. SmythWe should be seeing major improvements to the open source popHealth reporting tool as a result of a Challenge Award just announced by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) and Health 2.0. It is hoped that the awards will  motivate developers to create innovative applications that will enhance the open source tool beyond its current capabilities. The hope is that the challenge will generate new methods of leveraging the program’s current reporting functions and open source framework to help providers better understanding and care for patient populations.

First prize includes $75,000 and an opportunity for the winning app to be publicly demonstrated at a future ONC/Health 2.0 conference. Second prize is $20,000. All entries to the Challenge Award must be submitted by Feb. 3, 2012. More details on the Challenge Award can be found here.

What is popHealth?

popHealth is a open source software tool that facilitates the automated reporting of health quality measures. It is integrated with a healthcare provider's electronic health record (EHR) system to produce summary quality measures on the provider's patient population. Interestingly enough, popHealth can also be used as a stand-alone open source EHR and has been certified under the meaningful use criteria.

popHealth is designed to give healthcare providers the ability to better analyze their patient populations. Its data collection and formatting abilities can be used to create a better picture of patient health demographics and identify at-risk populations within the practice. Healthcare providers can then target patients with high disease burdens for early intervention, an approach called “hotspotting.”

The capabilities of popHealth, however, go far beyond the medical practice. The vast majorities of existing proprietary EHR's are not designed to share health record data. popHealth is specifically designed to work as a “bridge” between EHR systems as well as Health Information Exchanges and other data gathering services including government regulatory agencies. popHealth makes the transmission of summary quality data is simple, secure, and scalable. popHealth represents a cost-efficient alternative to traditional methods of data analysis and reporting.

popHealth’s design leverages the generation of Continuity of Care records from a provider’s EHR to produce the clinical quality measure reports. Specifically, popHealth leverages the HITSP CCD/C32 XML and ASTM CCR XML continuity of care standards as inputs. popHealth already integrates with multiple EHR systems and will easily scale as clinical quality measures are added. Vendors and providers using clinical repositories for source data may directly integrate with popHealth and leverage the quality measure engine.

By drawing information from EHRs, popHealth works behind the healthcare provider’s firewall and formats general patient population data for regulation agencies reports in order to protect patients’ identifiable health information.

popHealth was produced by the MITRE corporation under a grant from the Office of the National Coordinator at the US Department of Health and Human Services.

The popHealth prototype was released in February of 2010 and the ONC began funding the project eight months later. The popHealth project has since been on the fast track to real-world use, receiving support from the ONC and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and making its debut with a presentation at the 2011 Government Health IT Conference in July 2011.

The Provider's Dashboard

The popHealth user interface, the popHealth dashboard, is web-based, and places maintaining an easy and intuitive to use design as a key criteria for the project. It features  a simple navigation design with three main components: the heading, sidebar, and reporting frame.

The practice name, number of reporting patients and reporting period appear in the heading.

The sidebar is formatted to guide the user through meaningful use quality measures; beginning with a list of core measures followed by a list of additional measures in case the core measures do not apply to the provider’s practice. As the provider selects items on the toolbar, practice statistics and a corresponding bar chart for each clinical quality measure will appear in the reporting frame for quick and easy interpretation.

The healthcare provider can export the general practice report from the main page or click the “patients” button by each measure to access a list of all patients who did or did not meet the quality measure criteria.

Technical Details

popHealth is licensed under the commercially-friendly Apache 2.0 open source license. All the popHealth software is freely available for anyone to download, use, modify and/or redistribute. popHealth uses the Ruby on Rails framework, the Java programming language, the open source MongoDB database, and several Web 2.0 JavaScript libraries including Scriptaculous and Prototype. popHealth supports all major open source browsers.

The vast majority of the software supporting popHealth runs atop of the infrastructure developed by MITRE Corporation's Laika project. Laika is an open source electronic health record (EHR) testing framework that can support testing EHR systems for interoperability against the HITSP C32 standard, HL7 v2.* Messages, and the IHE XDS.b Web Service exchange. As with popHealth, all of the supporting Laika software and source code is also freely available under an Apache 2.0 open source distribution license.

More Information

For those looking for additional information on popHealth, there is an excellent set of interviews on popHealth that were conducted by Andy Oram from O'Reilly Radar. Oram interviewed two of the key project members, Lisa Tutterow and Andy Gregorowicz. A link to those interviews can be found here.