RDF as a Universal Healthcare Exchange Language
Share this Session:
  David Booth   David Booth
Senior Software Architect
  Stanley Huff   Stanley M. Huff
Chief Medical Informatics Officer
Intermountain Healthcare
  Josh Mandel   Josh C. Mandel
Research Faculty
Children's Hospital Informatics Program at Harvard-MIT
  Emory Fry   Emory Fry
Founder, Chief Medical Informatics Officer
Cognitive Medical Systems
  Conor Dowling   Conor Dowling


Wednesday, June 5, 2013
01:00 PM - 02:00 PM
Level:  Business/Strategic

Location:  Imperial A

Healthcare information resides and continues to rapidly grow in a bewildering variety of vocabularies, formats and systems in thousands of organizations. This makes the exchange and integration of healthcare information exceedingly difficult. It inhibits access to complete and accurate patient data, undermines the key advantage of having patient data in electronic form, and drives up the already high cost of healthcare.

The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) identified the need for a universal healthcare exchange language as a key enabler in addressing this problem by improving healthcare data portability. Many familiar with Semantic Web technology have recognized that RDF / Linked Data would be an excellent candidate to meet this need, for both technical and strategic reasons. Although RDF is not yet well known in conventional healthcare IT, it has been beneficially used in a wide variety of applications over the past ten years -- including medical and biotech applications -- and would exceed all of the requirements outlined in the PCAST report.

RDF offers a practical evolutionary pathway to semantic interoperability. It enables information to be readily linked and exchanged with full semantic fidelity while leveraging existing IT infrastructure investments. Being schema-flexible, RDF allows multiple evolving data models and vocabularies to peacefully co-exist in the same instance data, without loss of semantic fidelity. This enables standardized data models and vocabularies to be used whenever possible, while permitting legacy or specialized models and vocabularies to be semantically linked and used when necessary. It also enables a limitless variety of related information to be semantically linked to patient data, such as genomic, geographic and drug interaction data, enabling more effective treatment, and greater knowledge discovery. Other reasons for adopting RDF as a universal healthcare exchange language include: (a) its ability to make information self-describing with precise semantics; (b) its support for automated inference; and (c) its foundation in open standards.

This panel will discuss the goal of adopting RDF / Linked Data as a universal healthcare exchange language, covering topics such as:

  • Motivation: Why RDF / Linked Data as a universal healthcare exchange language?
  • Vision: What would it look like? How would it be used? What is being proposed?
  • Benefits: What are the benefits of RDF / Linked Data over other alternatives? What are other alternatives?
  • Barriers: What hurdles need to be overcome? How should they be overcome?
  • Roadmap: What steps should be taken by whom to achieve serious consideration and adoption of RDF / Linked Data as a universal healthcare exchange language?
  • Participation: How can I learn more? How can I support this goal?

NOTE: This panel has a related workshop scheduled for Monday, June 3 (Registration required).

David Booth is a senior software architect at KnowMED, using Semantic Web technology for healthcare quality-of-care and clinical outcomes measurement. He previously worked at PanGenX applying Semantic Web technology to genomics in support of personalized medicine. Before that he worked on Cleveland Clinic's SemanticDB project, which uses RDF and other semantic technologies to perform cardiovascular research. Prior to that was a software architect at HP Software, where his primary focus was emerging technologies. He was a W3C Fellow from 2002 to 2005, where he worked on Web Services standards before becoming involved in Semantic Web technology. He has been programming for many years using a variety of programming languages and operating systems. He holds a Ph.D. in Computer Science from UCLA.

Dr. Huff is Professor (Clinical) of Medical Informatics at the University of Utah, and the Chief Medical Informatics Officer at Intermountain Healthcare. Intermountain Healthcare is a charitable not-for-profit health care organization in the intermountain west that includes 24 hospitals, numerous primary care and specialty clinics, and a health plans (health insurance) division. He has worked in the area of medical vocabularies and medical database architecture for the past 20 years. He is currently a co-chair of the Logical Observation Identifier Names and Codes (LOINC) Committee, a member of the Board of Directors of HL7, and a member of the ONC HIT Standards Committee. He teaches a course in medical vocabulary and data exchange standards at the University of Utah.

Josh is a physician and software engineer interested in improving clinical care through information technology. After earning an S.B. in computer science and electrical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an M.D. from the Tufts University School of Medicine, he joined the faculty of the Boston Children's Hospital Informatics Program and Harvard Medical School, where he serves as lead architect of the SMART Project (http://smartplatforms.org). Josh has a special interest in tools and interfaces that support software developers who are new to the health domain.

A neonatologist and healthcare informatician, CAPT Emory Fry, MC, USN (ret) served as Chief Medical Informatics Officer, Naval Medical Center, San Diego; regional Chief Information Officer, Navy Medicine West; and Senior Informatics Researcher at the Naval Health Research Center, San Diego. Dr. Fry was the engineering Program Director for the Department of Defense's Nationwide Health Information Network and Virtual Lifetime Medical Record demonstrations in 2009 / 2010, and was the Principle Investigator for a number of research initiatives in closed-loop mechanical ventilation, clinical decision support, predictive analytics, ontology development, and healthcare interoperability. Upon retiring from active duty in 2012, he co-founded Cognitive Medical Systems. He is currently engaged in ontology research and developing standards-based terminology services using Semantic Web technologies for the Department of Defense and the Veterans Health Administration.

Conor Dowling is the CTO of Caregraf, which uses Semantic Web technologies to help health-care providers gather and analyze the information they create during the course of a patient’s care. He is a specialist in clinical-data analytics with a focus on how the definition of clinical know-how and institutions shapes the description of patient care.

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