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Obama open government initiative steers NHIN Direct's crowdsourcing

When Barack Obama moved into the White House, he almost immediately published an open government manifesto, which said that “knowledge is widely dispersed in society, and public officials benefit from having access to that dispersed knowledge.” Whether they agree with his politics or not, most people would have to admit that this represents an interesting twist on how business is done.

For the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, one of the ways this philosophy manifests itself is in the crowdsourcing of the NHIN (National Health Information Network) Direct standard. At the developing standard’s wiki, stakeholders inside and outside ONC debate its features and development directions, as well as pose challenging “meta” questions to the agency’s leaders about what they’re really hoping to accomplish with the standard. Like private-sector message boards — and unlike the typical government website, with the exception of comment spaces for proposed regulatory rules — the fur can sometimes fly as participants with varied levels of knowledge and understanding post what’s on their minds.

That’s new, said ONC interoperability leader Dr. Doug Fridsma.

“There are a lot of things about the NHIN Direct project that I think are exciting and new and novel,” Fridsma said. “We’re anticipating that we’ll get some really nice feedback from the community and some good specifications as a result.”

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