What is the Argonaut Project?

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When it comes to data and healthcare operations, the key phrase to remember is “information exchange” – and the fact that many electronic healthcare records systems (EHR) can’t really do it that well.

That’s why the private sector is currently working on the Argonaut Project, which has the goal of creating a system that can smooth the flow of information to the disparate software systems and computer networks used in the healthcare industry.

Consider the enormity of the task. Hospitals, physician clinics, diagnostics labs, outpatient clinics, long-term care facilities, community health centers – all have their own systems. Creating industry-wide standards for software that results in these systems having consistent and accurate information exchange – called interoperability – is the long-term, ambitious goal of Argonaut.

The JASON Report

Argonaut was created based on the recommendations from a series of studies on healthcare interoperability, or the lack thereof. One of the most detailed is the JASON report, created by a government advisory panel that included representatives of both the private sector and government.

Released in 2014, the report was highly critical of healthcare interoperability and called for a dramatic shift in how the healthcare industry is approaching the issue. The Argonaut Project, under the HL7 International umbrella, was created to find ideas to address the issue.

HL7 stands for Health Level Seven International, which seeks to establish a set of standards, formats and definitions used worldwide for the development and exchange of healthcare records.

Part of developing that system is Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR), which establishes guidance for the development of EHRs. It’s akin to what users have now on the internet – a site looks the same no matter where you are located when you access it, thanks to accepted coding standards.

FHIR would do the same for access to healthcare data for medical professionals. If you need to see a doctor while on vacation in Miami, the attending physician would have access to the information in your records inputted by your primary care physician in Minneapolis.

It makes perfect sense. But it’s also extremely difficult.

What Has Argonaut Accomplished?

Since its inception, the Argonaut Project has made a good deal of headway in establishing  standards. Those working on the project include representatives from the Mayo Clinic, Accenture, Cerner, Meditech, Boston Children’s Hospital, Intermountain and Beth Israel Deaconess.

Micky Tripathi, the project leader and  CEO of the Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative, has said the project is important because the private sector “needs to be stepping up more, to take over interoperability” rather than wait for government edicts.

The project has published the FHIR Data and Document Query Implementation Guide, which serves as a guide for establishing a FHIR network. FHIR is considered an upgrade from older systems because it allows the sharing of documents and data-level information between systems.

The guidance is already being used by companies such as Epic, Cerner, and Meditech.

What Is The Argonaut Project Doing Now?

At the White House in 2018, representatives from all the major tech companies pledged to support the Argonaut Project by removing barriers to interoperability. They included Amazon, Google, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle and Salesforce.

This pledge includes the concept of adopting standards for cloud architecture and cloud computing through the use of FHIR.

Where this will lead is not yet known, but with these tech giants onboard, the chances of improving interoperability in healthcare have greatly increased since the release of the JASON report.

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