IBM R&D Labs in Israel News

Amnon Shabo named top HL7 volunteer

November 14, 2007

Amnon Shabo has a vision for the future of healthcare — and a prestigious award he recently received may garner more focus for the concepts he believes will help revolutionize medical care.

A researcher in the IBM Haifa Research Lab's Healthcare and Life Sciences department, Amnon was recently awarded the Volunteer of the Year award by Health Level 7 (HL7), the healthcare arena standards developing organization.

"I am confident this award will bring much more attention to the genetic and genomic data we're trying to bring into the more traditional HL7 standard specifications," he noted. "This will help foster the vision of personalized healthcare, a long-expected improvement in the current practice of medicine."

Amnon is one of several healthcare IT domain specialists to be recognized by HL7. The annual HL7 volunteer awards are presented to a few select individuals who make significant technical contributions to healthcare data standards. Over the last several years, Amnon has been a key contributor to the HL7 new generation of standards in such areas as clinical documentation and clinical genomics specifications.

Clinical genetics is part of a wide variety of personal health data associated with the emerging concept of a longitudinal, patient-centric, and cross-institutional electronic health record (EHR). HL7's thousands of volunteers, who represent healthcare providers, vendors, government agencies, insurers, payers, and patients, have worked for years to create standards for evaluating EHR systems.

A member of HL7 since 2001, Amnon is a key technical contributor and founding member of the HL7 Clinical Genomics Special Interest Group. According to the HL7 award announcement, "Amnon has worked across committees to ensure harmonization of genomic data wherever applied. He has made a substantial contribution to the quality and relevance of HL7 specifications."

"Amnon has worked tirelessly on healthcare document standards," noted Prof. Ed Hammond of Duke University, the incoming chairman of the HL7 Board for 2008-2009 and a founding member of HL7. "In addition to his work on EHRs and HL7 standards, he has published work on the implementation of Version 3 documents and messages and has been an early implementer and developer. He accomplished all of this while working from Israel, and he remains an active participant across oceans and time zones."

Another concept Amnon hopes to advance in the coming years is Independent Health Record Banks (IHRBs), part of a global rearrangement of the healthcare information flow. The primary responsibility of IHRBs, as Amnon envisions it, is to maintain EHRs for the lifetime of individuals while releasing healthcare providers from the burden of archiving these records, thereby cutting their costs significantly.

A pioneer of the IHRB concept, Amnon has promoted this idea for the past decade, and it appears that his efforts are finally bearing fruit. The US Congress recently introduced legislation that will create IHRBs as regulated institutions responsible for managing patients' electronic health records for a lifetime.

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