Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Query Health: Distributed Population Queries

By Michael Buck and Rich Elmore (and originally published in Health Data Management)

Query Health is an Open Government Initiative that is establishing the standards and services for distributed population health queries.  Query Health standards will be used to send questions to clinical data sources which return aggregate measures of population health that can be used for many purposes including disease outbreak monitoring, post-market surveillance, comparative effectiveness research, quality and performance measures. 

Query Health is pleased to announce the commitment of leading healthcare organizations to pilot the Query Health standards and specifications.  Query Health also plans to present its progress on proposed standards and reference implementation at the HIMSS conference in Las Vegas, February 20-24, 2012.  And in an unexpected twist, Query Health standards will deliver potential benefits beyond the scope of distributed population queries. 

Announcing the first Query Health Pilot
Today, Query Health is announcing that the Primary Care Information Project (PCIP), within the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and the New York State Department of Public Health have announced plans to pilot the Query Health standards and reference implementation. PCIP recently won awards for their work on distributed queries including the 2011 HIMSS Public Health Davies Award of Excellence and Healthcare Informatics first place Innovator Award. They will be using Query Health standards to expand their existing population health monitoring network from an existing 1.6 million ambulatory patients to encompass citywide HIE organizational coverage of both inpatient and outpatient encounters. This enhanced system will support optimal allocation of limited public health resources.

What will be shown at HIMSS?
ONC will host a demonstration of Query Health’s progress on the reference implementation including a live demo of distributed query execution.
·         ONC Booth Theater on Wednesday February 22nd at 9:45 AM. 
·         HIMSS Interoperability Showcase Stage on Thursday February 23rd at 9:30 AM

Are there benefits beyond distributed population queries?
The path for a quality measure today is measured in years from the time of measure definition to delivery in vendor systems and deployment in EHRs.  Want another quality measure?  Wait several years.
In collaboration with HL7, NQF and CMS, Query Health standards will enable Health IT vendors to dynamically respond to queries, including queries that align with quality measures.  So assuming the data is being captured, the cycle time could go from years to days. 
The ability to generate measures nationally in a short cycle time has powerful benefits for patients, patient populations while enabling researchers and healthcare organizations to substantially reduce costs and increase speed.

What is Query Health?
Query Health was launched September 2011, with approximately 100 committed member organizations representing diverse healthcare stakeholders contributing to the project. 

Today, when health researchers develop questions about a population, in many cases they manually pose these questions to care delivery organizations, which employ technical teams to manually generate queries and produce reports. Even where distributed queries are automated, the costs and time to link each data source are unacceptably high.  The Query Health Initiative will make this much more efficient: the question can be delivered in a format that will be interpreted automatically by an HIT system. The HIT system will then generate a report with the “answer” to the query.
Questions can be sent to many different types of data sources including providers’ EHRs, payers’ clinical records, personal health records and health information exchanges.  Decisions about which queries to process are under control of the data owner and the aggregated results protect patient level data, which remains safely behind data owners’ firewalls. 

For more information:
For more information on Query Health initiative, visit the Query Health website or contact

The authors:
Michael Buck is the clinical work group leader for Query Health and director for the NYC/NYS pilot.  Dr. Buck is also Biomedical Informatics R&D Manager at New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and Adjunct Associate Research Scientist at Columbia University’s  Department of Biomedical Informatics.  

Rich Elmore is the ONC Coordinator for Query Health.

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