Supporting the Gravity Project to expand interoperability among health, human, and social services

Often people ask how we enable care providers to actually refer their clients to another service. The answer is, well, Open Referral doesn’t actually deal with the process of “making a referral” at all!

We’re working to ensure that there’s open access to information about the services to which someone might be referred. 

But the challenges related to actually sending a person’s information from one provider’s system to another? That’s a whole other tangle of knots. I’ve long hoped that someone somewhere would work on those problems, while believing it should remain outside Open Referral’s scope.

So I’m excited to see that this work is now under way.

The Gravity Project is like kin to the Open Referral Initiative: Gravity is a community of practice that is developing and testing consensus-based open standards to facilitate capture and exchange of data pertaining to people and their social circumstances across a variety of healthcare and social service systems.
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LOOP: Resource Data Collaboration, Live at Leeds

Leeds, a city in the North of England, has developed an open-source API-based service directory data infrastructure. LOOP (Leeds Open Online Platform) provides a way for the city’s local authority, voluntary sector and private partners to collaborate on a shared information repository.

The City Digital Partnerships Team is currently leading the project. We are hosted by Leeds City Council (the local authority of the city of Leeds in West Yorkshire, England), but our focus is to work together across all of the organisations that deliver health and social care to the people in the city.

LOOP re-uses elements from a project in Kingston-upon-Thames in London, in which a local authority used the Open Referral data model to build a MySQL database with APIs and an admin interface. Through LOOP, third parties can build their own websites and systems that connect to our API. We’re also developing a cross-platform widget that can render content on other websites.

 

Initially this project didn’t have any specific interoperability or integration requirements – but we quickly recognised there are benefits of being a part of a broader community of practice, and the potential to exchange interoperable technology in the future. We also knew that, in order to bring together many partners, it was vital to have a data standard to which all could agree. That’s why we enthusiastically decided to use the Open Referral data model.

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Upgrading the Human Service Data API protocols to 2.0

[Ed: This post is from Kin Lane, author of initial Human Service Data API protocols, and now Chief Evangelist at Postman, an API development platform. Welcome back, Kin!]

Now that the Open Referral Initiative has upgraded to version 2 of the Human Service Data Specification (HSDS), we’re commencing a subsequent upgrade to version 2 of our Human Service Data API protocols (HSDA).

We now invite members of the Open Referral community to contribute feedback – especially use cases, specific feature requests, and example OpenAPI definitions – that can shape the iteration of these API protocols and, in turn, facilitate the emergence of interoperable, reliable resource directory information infrastructure. Continue reading

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Open Referral’s 2020 Year in Review

Amid the disruptions and crises of 2020, the Open Referral Initiative rallied to meet increasing and rapidly changing needs for improved flow of information about community resources.

As our new year starts to take shape – with collective needs for collaboration still rising unabated – we’ve taken some time to reflect on our progress and accomplishments.

Check out our 2020 Year in Review, embedded below – or viewable and downloadable directly from this link. Continue reading

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Introducing NCCARE360: a coordinated statewide resource referral platform

NCCARE360

[This post is from Laura Marx, President and CEO of United Way of North Carolina. Welcome, Laura!] 

In 2019, the first statewide health and human service care coordination platform launched in North Carolina: NCCARE360.

Part of a broader healthy opportunities network envisioned by the state Department of Health and Human Services (NC DHHS) — NCCARE360 provided our state an opportunity to build a collaborative model of care coordination between health care providers and community based organizations (CBOs) focused on ensuring patients connect with services addressing social determinants of health (SDoH).

NCCARE360 is supported by the Foundation for Health Leadership and Innovation in partnership with NC DHHS. The United Way of North Carolina/NC211 is building this care coordination infrastructure in partnership with Expound Decision Systems and UniteUs.

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Innovating Around the Intervention: Activate Care’s Coordination Tools, Powered by Open Referral

[Welcome to Jonathan Abbett, VP of User Experience at Activate Care!]

Imagine if our healthcare and social service systems were able to seamlessly coordinate care around all of our physical, behavioral, and social health needs. Back in 2012, inspired by this vision, I joined a technology start-up that is now known as Activate Care.

Activate Care logo

I am joined now by a much larger team of colleagues supporting our pursuit of that vision, and we’re honored to work with a community of hundreds of healthcare and social services organizations using our platform. Every so often, we stop to look around our industry and ponder what else we could be doing to help people in need, and to better serve the helpers – the people who work in healthcare, social services, and I&R agencies – who are the end-users of our tools.

What is clear is that communities across America are all at different stages in their efforts to address the social determinants of health (SDoH). These non-medical factors like housing stability, food security, and community safety all play an outsized role in the physical and behavioral health of all of us.

For this reason, many communities have launched or are in the process of developing a portfolio of interventions that help to address SDoH. Think of a coordinated entry system for housing services, the placement of food pantries in hospitals, or a high-risk young-mothers program designed to prevent involvement with the justice system. These efforts have the potential to change lives.

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The most successful social interventions go further than this screen-and-refer approach, and embrace the approach that Activate Care calls screen-and-intervene. In order to help communities leverage the power of coordinated care interventions, our care coordination and referral management systems need to talk to each other. Open Referral helps us solve a critical piece of this puzzle. Continue reading

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HHS Technology Challenge calls for interoperability solutions using HSDS

The U.S. Administration for Community Living provides funding and support to networks of community-based organizations who serve elders and people with disabilities. ACL’s grantees include a vast array of services that help people cope with food insecurity and transportation issues, manage chronic disease, support employment and economic independence, reduce social isolation, and address other factors outside of the medical clinic that impact people’s health. 

ACL recognizes that this work is fundamentally collaborative. Vulnerable people require holistic support, which typically involves coordination among institutions; however, such institutions often struggle to work together, in part because their technologies can’t ‘speak’ to each other.

To address this need for interoperability among health, human, and social service providers, ACL has announced the Social Care Referrals Challenge: an opportunity to identify, test, and promote new methods for sharing data in the coordination of care across organizations and technologies, such as sharing information about resources and/or enabling ‘warm referrals’ across systems. The ACL invites participation in this challenge from state and community leaders in the aging and disability network, as well as health care systems, health plans, and health IT vendors.

Last week, ACL updated the Challenge specifications with a range of new details – including a criteria that any proposals involving resource directory data should use Open Referral’s resource data exchange standards (the Human Service Data Specification and API protocols).

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Release Announcement: Benetech Service Net upgrade

[Welcome back to the blog, Benetech! This post is from KP Naidu, VP of Benetech Labs, with an update on their Service Net.]

 

Here in Benetech’s home of the San Francisco Bay Area, our communities are facing compounding crises: the pandemic, economic crisis, and most recently out of control wildfires forcing thousands of evacuations and causing a new airborne health crisis. This chaos has not only created a more pressing need than ever for human services that can help people stay healthy and secure, but it has also caused major turmoil among service providers.

The result has been an intensification of challenges that were already hard enough – such as just keeping track of what services are available, and when. This information is now changing even more rapidly given the challenges of providing services while social distancing – and given constrictions in funding of various kinds. Community resource referral providers report that their legacy systems aren’t able to keep up with these rapid changes – and many resorted to using Google Docs to keep track of information about services.

These challenges make collaboration more important than ever. That’s why I’m excited to announce the next iteration of Benetech Service Net. Continue reading

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Upgrading our specifications: A proposal for HSDS 2.0

We’re excited to share a proposed upgrade to the Human Services Data Specification, authored by our technical partners, the Open Data Services Cooperative.

Over the next two weeks, we’ll field feedback on these proposed changes. Take a look at the proposal in our Github repository – you can leave comments in the Issues queue – or on our documentation site, where you can also comment by first creating an account on hypothes.is (a website annotation service) and then sharing your feedback directly on the web pages.

Before the end of this month, we’ll conduct a video conference to review key points and discuss any outstanding issues (indicate your interest and availability here). Assuming we reach rough consensus, our target is to approve version 2.0 in the beginning October.

Below, we provide more context on the primary changes under consideration. Continue reading

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