University of Texas opens HIE laboratory

Industry teams with school to train students in cloud-based data exchange
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The University of Texas at Austin has added a health information exchange laboratory to its health IT certificate program, with assistance from HIE software and electronic health record vendors.

The laboratory created two simulated regional HIEs serving virtual medical practices in four Texas cities using cloud computing, the university said in an announcement. The setup mirrors the state's "network of networks" designed by the Texas Health Services Authority, according to the university, and lets students practice skills such as creating continuity of care documents and merging information from different EHRs.

In addition to providing hands-on training for students in an emerging health IT field, the laboratory can be used for standards-based interoperability testing and research, Leanne Field, director of the nine-week health IT certificate program, said in a statement.

Informatics Corp. of America, Orion Health, eClinicalWorks and e-MDs collaborated with the university in developing the lab.

Last month, the University of California-Davis released a buyers' guide highlighting interoperability and interface features needed to support HIEs. The "HIE Ready" buyers' guide was developed by the California Health eQuality program at the university's Institute for Population Health Improvement.

"Upgrading EHRs so that information can be exchanged with other EHRs typically requires additional customization to create interfaces that allow the EHRs to communicate with each other," noted the guide introduction.

Arguing that Stage 1 and 2 Meaningful Use provisions do not cover the full range of interoperability and interface features needed for robust HIE, the university said its guide helps providers to specify how much interoperability they want in the EHRs, and to examine the capabilities of individual vendors' products.

To learn more:
- read the UT announcement
- here's the HIE buyers' guide

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