HHS challenge aims to integrate eye exam data with medical informatics systems

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Officials at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have challenged software developers to create a solution that integrates eye examination data into medical informatics technology, reports Information Week.

The HHS’ Ocular Imaging Challenge will award a $100,000 prize to the winning entry. In addition to streamlining care for patients, officials at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) hope the winning solution will encourage ophthalmological specialists to adopt medical informatics technology in their practices.

Difficulties integrating ocular examination data into electronic health records has been cited as a factor in many ophthalmologists’ hesitation to embrace clinical informatics solutions.

“This is a tremendous opportunity because this is not just about ophthalmology or ocular imaging, this is a more generic issue of how do we integrate information from disparate systems,” Farzad Mostashari, the national coordinator for health IT, said in an official video released by the ONC.

Despite the aims of the initiative, some healthcare IT experts remain skeptical about the suitability of medical informatics solutions currently on the market.

Ken Terry, a senior contributor to FierceHealthIT, recently wrote that unless clinical informatics technology is designed with specialists like ophthalmologists in mind, programs such as the Ocular Imaging Challenge will not address the needs of these professionals. Terry wrote that the lack of dedicated medical imaging documentation formats and the limitations of traditional mouse-based input devices were two areas of key concern to ophthalmologists.

Terry also noted that although some providers offer electronic health records aimed at ophthalmological specialists, many of them lack the means to be integrated with the equipment in use at many ocular health practices. He added that other specialized areas of medicine such as oncology typically experience similar limitations in using mainstream medical informatics solutions.