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Created: May 22, 2001.
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Johns Hopkins and Leading Medical Societies Announce MedBiquitous Consortium for XML Medical Standards.

A recent announcement from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine describes the creation of a new technology consortium for education and collaboration in the area of medical science. "Johns Hopkins has joined with many leading professional medical societies to create the MedBiquitous Consortium, a group dedicated to creating technology standards and software for education and collaboration in online medical communities. The MedBiquitous Consortium is a non-profit international organization dedicated to creating a comprehensive XML framework for professional medical societies. The goal is to enable individual citizens, medical societies, governmental, and industry members to build on this framework to create thriving online communities and Web-based services for physicians. The MedBiquitous Consortium's immediate focus is on defining a set of XML (Extensible Markup Language) standards and software requirements for communications within and among professional medical societies and related organizations. The standards developed by the Consortium are freely available throughout the industry, thus enabling the development of interoperable software tools and Web services. The Consortium is also creating a library of Java software tools for Consortium members." Key working standards identified by the group include XML, Java, and UML: "The Consortium will create XML standards that allow organizations to better exchange data; it will create modular Java software components and applications based on the XML standards; it will use UML to architect Java software components and applications." The MedBiquitous Consortium plans to work with W3C and other standards bodies, including medical standards groups, to ensure compatibility.

From the white paper 2001-05-22:

MedBiquitous will offer a "community of communities," a society of professional medical societies and interested government and industry colleagues, devoted to developing a collection of shared Internet resources that are specifically designed for professional medical societies. These resources will include 1) technical standards, in the form of an XML (extensible markup language) vocabulary, and 2) a suite of flexible Java software components that can be combined together to create online communities. XML is an Internet standard that facilitates the exchange of structured data over the Internet. By creating common data models, called schemas, XML makes it easier for Web systems to be interoperable. But XML only becomes useful when there is agreement within an industry on a common syntax of XML. MedBiquitous will provide the vehicle for a consensus-building process of defining an XML vocabulary for professional medical societies. This XML vocabulary will support a wide range of activities including organizational membership and participation, specialty certification, continuing education, online meetings, scientific abstracts, journal article submission and administration, clinical trials, and data registries for tracking medical outcomes. As is the case with other industries (travel, finance, aerospace, music), the creation of these XML standards will allow the development within professional medicine of interoperable Web software tools and services.

The Consortium will undertake the consensus-building process that is necessary for defining an XML vocabulary and software requirements for these online communities. The standard building process begins when a Consortium member identifies an area of interest that requires agreement within the industry and submits a project proposal. After the project proposal is submitted, a Working Group of interested members and invited experts is formed to propose a specification for the new XML definition or software requirement. After a period of review, the specification is put to a vote by the entire membership. Approved XML specifications become publicly available to encourage dissemination throughout the industry of professional medicine. Consortium members will be able to view and comment on the entire standards development process, enabling them to use the emerging standards within their own Web resources... Members interested in creating XML standards must adhere to the specifications process. The specifications process consists of five phases: the Project Proposal, the Working Draft, Request For Comments, Final Proposal, and Specification.

The MedBiquitous Laboratory develops modular, reusable Java software components based upon the XML architecture and software requirements developed by the Consortium. These components can then be built into powerful Internet tools for professional medical societies. The Laboratory will play a vital role in the creation of next-generation Internet applications for professional medical societies and will have projects centered on specific thematic interests. The most important project for the Consortium will be a software suite called Professional Collaborators, which will provide core software offerings for online medical communities. Once an application is complete, source code and documentation will be made available to Consortium members for use within their organization. This open-source access to the software code will allow members full opportunity to customize and enhance it for their own needs.

From the announcement:

Fifteen organizations representing over 400,000 physicians have already joined the Consortium, including the Council of Medical Specialty Societies, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Gastroenterology, the American College of Radiology, the American Heart Association, the American Society of Clinical Oncology, CTSNet (Cardiothoracic Surgery Network), the European Association for Cardio-Thoracic Surgery, the International Council of Ophthalmology, and the Society for Vascular Surgery. Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium and UNITAR, a virtual university in Malaysia, have joined the Consortium as university members. IBM, Sun Microsystems, and Rational Software will be taking a lead role in designing the Consortium's technical architecture.

"The XML and Web services specifications developed and used by the Consortium will enable healthcare professionals to take advantage of dynamic connections and exchange of information through the Internet," says Robert S. Suter, Ph.D., IBM director of e-business Standards Strategy. "Using open standards-based middleware to facilitate better communication and collaboration among associations will benefit the entire medical community, and we're pleased to contribute our infrastructure expertise toward the launch of this initiative."

"MedBiquitous Consortium technologies reflect Sun's practice of supporting open industry standards, such as Java and XML, and supports our vision of developing and deploying Web services as outlined in Sun's Open Net Environment (ONE) architecture," says Todd Freter, program manager of the XML Technology Center for Sun Microsystems. "Sun Microsystems is proud to play a role in this initiative."

"Rational has been a pioneer in the development of software standards such as the Unified Modeling Language," says Kirk Fuller, vice president of worldwide strategic relationships at Rational Software. "We're very pleased to be part of the MedBiquitous effort and we believe that using software standards will help move the project forward more quickly and with higher quality."

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