Coalescing Interest in Geospatial Standards for Health Domain

At the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC®) Technical Committee plenary meeting on 26 September 2013 at the ESA headquarters in Frascati, Italy, the Technical Committee approved the charter for a new OGC Health Domain Working Group (DWG).  The group seeks to identify possible health industry "profiles" of geospatial standards, and also gaps in current standards.  OGC Domain Working Groups (DWGs) help develop scenarios for interoperability experiments, pilot projects and testbeds.  DWGs also do market research and develop domain communication strategies to promote awareness, participation and market uptake of standards. The most recent OGC Health Domain Working Group meeting occurred during the OGC-TC in Geneva, June 10, 2014.

During the recent OGC Health DWG meeting, participants supported advancing the HL7–OGC Statement of Understanding, and for members to identify and move forward on discrete areas of work. HL7 is a not-for-profit international standards developing organization dedicated to providing a comprehensive framework and related standards for the exchange, integration, sharing, and retrieval of electronic health information. The OGC geospatial standards are expected to enrich health information.

Guest presenters provided insight on potential alignment of OGC Health DWG activities with health domain requirements for standardization and interoperability.  This included World Health Organization (WHO) eHealth and European Innovation Partnership initiatives.  Co-Chairs noted the need to advance liaison efforts, for example, with WHO for health information systems, noting that implementations (e.g. policies and programs for eHealth) are realized through national / sub-national entities.

A brief introduction was made on the purpose of OGC Engineering Reports.  Co-Chairs will invite input on focal points for Engineering Reports for consideration by the DWG, for example, reviews of how OGC Standards might serve health application areas identified, and where work is needed.  This work is ongoing.  Over the past year, discussion in the OGC Health DWG focused on health domain scenarios that show the need for interoperability among distributed geospatial information resources. Such scenarios will become the focus of DWG activities this year and of future requests for sponsors and interoperability projects and demonstrations.  In addition to discrete areas of work for HL7-OGC interoperability and eHealth, a few additional focal areas are described below.

In a previous session, Chris Little of the Met Office UK presented the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) High Impact Weather Research (HIWeather) Program and invited members of the OGC Health DWG to participate in upcoming HIWeather meetings. Health impacts comprise a key aspect of the HIWeather human vulnerabilities and impacts theme.

The OGC plays a key role in developing the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), and health is one of the GEOSS societal benefits areas. The OGC leads the GEOSS Architecture Implementation Pilot (AIP) and is a co-lead of the GEO Standards and Interoperability Forum (SIF). The OGC uses the OGC Interoperability Program to structure AIP development and demonstration activities. Each year of the AIP is one phase in a long-term program to develop, demonstrate and promote the use of the open standards based GEOSS Common Infrastructure (GCI). In 2009, in the second phase of the AIP, the Air Quality Workgroup used and tested the GEOSS Common Infrastructure (GCI) to register, discover, and access datasets relevant to air quality management.

The Air Quality Workgroup adopted the convention that all Air Quality data used in their work must be accessible through servers that implement the OGC Web Map Service (WMS) or Web Coverage Service (WCS) interface standards. The workgroup also developed a process to create ISO 19115 metadata records for the Air Quality Community Catalog from WMS/WCS GetCapabilities documents. Using a service oriented architecture approach, data and metadata flow from the data providers through the GCI to the users. These are among the best practices for implementation of OGC Standards, and it has been suggested the OGC Health DWG continue to liaise with the GEOSS community and document outcomes of GEOSS Health societal benefit area.

In 2010 the OGC partnered with technological, health, and research organizations in Earth Observation and ENVironmental modelling for the mitigation of HEAlth risks (EO2HEAVEN), a three-year research project funded through the European Commission's 7th Framework Program. EO2HEAVEN is involved in the development of an open standards-based Spatial Information Infrastructure (SII). The project focused on the importance of cross-disciplinary and cross-boundary cooperation to better understand links between environmental factors and health outcomes and to mitigate disease impact.

EO2HEAVEN specified and implemented the SII as an open architecture based upon international standards and adaptive geospatial Web services. The SII included bridging capabilities at the syntactic and semantic levels to and between environmental and health systems. A free eBook on the project's methods, results, and implications is available at the EO2HEAVEN website. OGC AIP Engineering Reports document the work done in the AIP. The GEOSS AIP-2 Air Quality and Health SBA Engineering Report is a public OGC document, as are all the OGC engineering reports that document work done in the AIP. AIP-3,4,5 and 6 all included health SBA scenarios, and in 2014, AIP-7 may, too.  These may inform about best practice implementations of OGC Standards, and future areas of work.

Scenarios will be refined and individually elaborated upon through monthly DWG teleconferences and through documentation, toward interoperability experiments and demonstration.  Members of the OGC Health DWG cooperate in articulating spatial interoperability requirements in a wide range of health applications, such as: telemedicine; bio-medical research; in-hospital navigation; wearable devices; spatial-temporal health impact modeling from climate change and forecast extreme weather; epidemiological surveillance integrated with related environmental and socioeconomic data; modeling and responding to cross-border health risks; eHealth; health resource planning and management; and patient and health care asset location in large urban health care facilities.

Co-chairs noted the need for more time in future Health DWG sessions, both for discussion and to steer proposed Engineering Reports.  More time will allow the presentation / discussion of cutting edge examples of OGC implementation for health applications, or gaps for future research, to inform potential Interoperability Experiments or demonstration projects in alignment with the DWG's Charter goals / Statements of Need. 

Articles and Health DWG Wiki content continue to be welcomed from DWG participants. Co-chairs will update the Member Portal and Wiki page with meeting summaries and presentation slides.

Interested Health stakeholders / Members of the public can follow the activities of the OGC Health DWG, make comments and provide information on the Health DWG Wiki, and subscribe to the Health DWG listserv at the OGC Health DWG web page.