For the (Electronic Health) Record: Pilot Project to Make Genetic Data Sharing More Manageable

Diana Manos, Contributing Editor

June 6, 2017

Genetic data is valuable to physicians, but often difficult to move around because it is so unwieldy. To address that challenge, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) has launched a 5-pilot project called Sync for Genes. The project will look for ways to use the latest standards being drafted by the Health Level Seven International (HL7), a group that sets standards, formats, and definitions for exchanging and developing electronic health records (EHRs).


HL7’s set of standards for application program interfaces (APIs), called Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR), is critical for the effective selection and exchange of discreet pieces of data, making genetic data exchange easier and, indeed possible, between EHRs, researchers and 
laboratories.


In January 2017, ONC launched the Sync for Genes project, selecting five common use cases. The pilots are:

  • Counsyl, a genetic health IT company, will work with Intermountain Healthcare, on family health history genetics;
  • The Food and Drug Administration is working on sequencing quality and regulatory genomics;
  • Foundation Medicine is partnering with Vanderbilt University Medical Center, on somatic and tumor testing;
  • Illumina, a manufacturer of genomic sequencing instruments, is working on next-generation sequencing solutions; and
  • The National Marrow Donor Program is partnering with Be The Match on tissue matching. 

Sync for Genes falls under the leadership of Teresa Zayas Cabán, acting chief of staff and the director of the Office of the Chief Scientist (OCS). The program is a collaboration between ONC and the National Institutes of Health, with ONC managing it, she told ClinicalOMICs in an interview.


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