By Brian D. Handspicker 

We really got into the weeds during last Friday’s weekly NIC webinar, discussing the challenges being tackled by our Project Unify workgroups on client/patient matching and privacy/security. The session’s presenters and discussion were spot-on for the objective that Unify is aiming to accomplish; that is, making it possible for information-sharing between Health and Human Services programs, systems and domains to take place to an unprecedented extent. 

On behalf of Stewards of Change Institute and all of us working on the project, thanks again to the 190-plus participants in the webinar, which was fittingly titled “Geek Out with Project Unify (Part 2): A Deeper Dive Technical Session on NIC’s Proof of Concept Project.” Please join us for Part III, which will begin at noon Eastern this coming Friday, June 5. Register Now for Part III >> 

The presenters at last week’s webinar explored technical details of the project, including:

  • an overview of Project Unify
  • discovering common patients/clients
  • supporting privacy and authorization best practice 

Project Unify Overview

For readers who don’t know much about Unify, it is a unique proof-of-concept demonstration designed to advance interoperability and information-sharing between Health and Human Services, as well as other domains – such as education, family courts, etc. – that impact health and well-being. Dr. Kristine McCoy, Executive Director of the Visiting Nurse Association (VNA) Health Group, and Arvinder Singh, CEO of Coherence Inc., discussed Unify’s goals, which include enabling a holistic, person-centered view of individuals and the services they receive. Meeting these goals will require supporting integration and interoperability across multiple information and policy domains. Join Project Unify Group >> 

Finding the Right Match

Mark Vafiades, Senior Advisor at Office of the National Coordinator, initiated the discussion on Person-Matching by inviting webinar attendees to participate in the virtual “ONC Patient Identity and Matching Working Group” on June 1st, 2020. 

Rita Torkzadeh and Pradeep S.B. Podila, Public Health Information Fellow at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention then provided an update on the work of Unify’s Person-Matching Workgroup; that includes identification of clients/patients who may be matches; improving statistical confidence in matches; identity data linkage of high-confidence matches; and resolution of matching identity data inconsistencies. The following were identified as issues to address in future meetings:

  • Identify matching algorithms, mechanisms and approached for more-successful, specific cross-domain applications
  • Explore or identify approaches and mechanisms to increase confidence/trust in the underlying matching framework through
  • Use of a Global Unique Identifier to promote confidence 
    • Use of provenance of record creation
  • Explore the use of non-federated and peer-to-peer identity-resolution frameworks
  • Identify governance templates to address operational, data and consent agreements
  • Draft "abuse cases" and other failure scenarios in which greater interoperability might create risks for vulnerable people and articulate design objectives to mitigate them 

Data Exchange Privacy Issues

Tom Silvious, Director of CSRA State and Local Solutions, and I provided an update on the work of Unify’s Privacy and Security Workgroup, including privacy requirements, varying legal requirements for multidomain privacy, and a discussion of static and dynamic authorization such as DS4P, Security Labels and Consent2Share. The following were identified as issues to address in future meetings:

  • Cross-Domain Provenance – where does data come from so that Consent2Share can be requested?
  • Cross-Domain Trust – who defines trust relationships between organizations?
  • Trust Enforcement – how do we ensure that a domain receiving data abides by either static privacy mark requirements or Consent2Share requirements?
  • Data Ownership – beyond the question of consent, who owns the data, especially once in transition across domains with differing legal requirements?
  • Governance – what organization has responsibility for defining cross-domain data policies, procedures and rules? 

Join the Project Unify Team

If you’re interested in being a part of this exciting initiative, join Project Unify Group by contacting its co-leader, Dave Walsh. This collaborative group is looking for technical and subject-matter experts, developers, documenters and testers, along with anyone who just wants to gain a better understanding of how to provide interoperable, cloud-based solutions.

In our next webinar, on June 5th, we’ll dive more deeply into the topic of confidentiality and privacy, and we’ll have an extended program that will include small-group discussions in online breakout rooms. Register today >>


Register for June 5th webinar, “Project Unify (Part 3): Report from the InterOpathon, Next Steps and Additional Technical Components" >>  

Join Project Unify Group >>


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