CONNECT to undergo facelift with help of federal grant

The government has decided to continue developing its CONNECT software, which links users to the National Health Information Network (NHIN) and can be downloaded for free by private health information exchanges. Several federal agencies also use the open-source software to exchange health data with one another and, in some cases, with private-sector entities.

The Office of the National Coordinator of Health IT (ONC) has contracted with CGI Federal Inc. to upgrade the federally funded software. The contract is worth $5.7 million in the first year, with possible one-year renewals. CGI will partner with Red Hat, best known for its Linux open-source operating system, which suggests that CGI will look for outside developers to help fix and enhance CONNECT.

The ONC announcement comes only a few months after the nonprofit Alembic Foundation launched Aurion, a re-branded version of CONNECT, and began to assemble a public-private open-source community to fix the bugs in the software and develop it further. A second version of Aurion has already been released, and the Aurion community has decided on a governance structure.

Vanessa Manchester, chief operating officer of Alembic, told FierceHealthIT, "Later versions of CONNECT will be reviewed by the Aurion community and they will determine if they are incorporated into the future releases of Aurion."

If ONC follows a separate development track for CONNECT, it will not be the first time the government has taken this approach. The Veterans Administration released its VistA EHR for open-source development many years ago, and the VistA community has taken that application in multiple directions. Meanwhile, the VA recently announced it would update VistA itself with help from outside developers.

To learn more:
- read the Health Data Management article
- see this fact sheet on CONNECT
- check out the VA RFP for VistA development