AIRS Recommends Open Referral for Resource Database Interoperability

Clive Jones is the new executive director of the Alliance of Information and Referral Systems. Welcome and thank you for your service, Clive!

 

On behalf of the Alliance of Information and Referral Systems (AIRS), I am pleased to announce that the AIRS Board has moved to promote the adoption Open Referral’s Human Service Data Specification and API protocols as methods of establishing interoperability among resource databases and associated technologies.

Our aim is to create secure, controlled and affordable processes with which Information and Referral (I&R) organizations can securely share resource database records from their own software system with other systems — and Open Referral has demonstrated considerable success in helping this field move toward that goal.

AIRS is an international association of I&R service providers. It is a 501(c)(3) incorporated in 1973 to improve quality access to human services for everyone through the art and science of I&R. AIRS addresses this goal through the development of professional standards, the operation of credentialing programs for both individuals and organizations, and its training, networking and support functions.

AIRS has always supported the interoperability of resource data. More than a decade ago, the AIRS XML Schema provided a means to move I&R resource data from one I&R software to another. However, this was only through ‘extract and load’ methods, and was before the proliferation of APIs.

In the early stages of Open Referral’s launch, key leaders from AIRS and our community actively participated in the development process, to ensure that the new initiative’s specifications would align as much as possible with our prior specification. We also fiscally sponsored Open Referral’s production of the Human Service Data API protocols.

Our criteria for a standardization of I&R data exchange and API protocols entail:

  • Making it easier for I&Rs to establish data partnerships with healthcare providers and other institutions that were previously not possible, or infeasible because of the costs involved.
  • Reducing the duplication of state and national records, so that, for example, a single record can be maintained by one I&R while being accessible to all.
  • Allowing I&R data to help more people in more ways. Our members are experts in collecting, verifying, and curating resource data — yet we know that there is no one right way for people in need to find and use this data. Our members data should be able to be found by people wherever they happen to look.
  • Promoting various methods by which I&R providers can control the contexts in which their resource database records are accessed (e.g. ensuring sustainable levels of traffic, perhaps offering value-adding features through premium partnerships)
  • Ensure reliable provenance of resource directory data, with confidence that verified information has not been altered by third parties, and that data stewardship is clearly attributed.

Towards this end, our board’s recent motions recommend that:

  1. The AIRS Standards should adopt new technical options such as the Human Services Data Specification (HSDS) and the Human Service Data API (HSDA).
  2. I&R software providers should integrate the HSDS and HSDA into their platforms, and AIRS will provide governance/leadership to enable ‘real-world’ compliance.
  3. AIRS will work with our technical partners to validate and promote compliance with these new interoperability standards.

We hope this continues to build momentum for everyone engaged in helping people discover the health, social and community services they need.

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