Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Interoperability Made Real: Open Referral’s Data Standard for Resource Directories

Visionlink is dedicated to data standards and data exchange as a necessary part of supporting successful communities. While the value of community services data may have been defined in the past by the strength of the walls around it, today however, tremendous value comes from the ability to be use appropriate data collaboratively among partners.

Visionlink has authored and supported standards for nearly two decades. Working with ANSI, U.S. Homeland Security, CAN, AIRS, and others, we have enjoyed the opportunity to work with colleagues on their standards and to author standards ourselves. In the community services market, we have converted, migrated, and exchanged more data than any other provider.

We are excited to formally support Open Referral’s standardized protocols for resource data exchange. You can learn more about Open Referral at https://openreferral.org, and see documentation for their Human Services Data Specification and related API protocols here: http://docs.openreferral.org.


The core concept is that many organizations serve as both users and producers of information about community services of all kinds. Among Visionlink’s customers as examples, these organizations range from 2-1-1s and Information and Referral centers, to AAA and ADRC's, to youth employment, disaster relief, refugee and immigrant focused solutions, food pantries, and many others. The recent focus on social determinants of health adds even more energy to the conversation about exchanging and updating agency, referral and service data. Each of organization shares a common interest in making it easier to share resource directory information in real-time.

To their credit, we believe that the good folks working on the Human Service Data Specification (HSDS) – and associated protocols developed by Open Referral – can meet the needs of the field, and are well positioned to mature as the field evolves.  

Visionlink’s groundbreaking API Builder provides the foundation to support this standard, as it provides the real-time ability to convert simple forms into automatically deployed API endpoints for flexible, multi-purpose and multi-partner data exchanges.As this sector continues to evolve, we see ever greater needs to facilitate the responsible and effective exchange of community services data. 

Visionlink adds its voice to both the concept and the deployment of this standard. We encourage our partners and the community at large to join in this work. 

You can join in the conversation about Open Referral’s development yourself: their community is convened in this Google Group, and their technical conversations occur in their Github repository here. 

And of course, contact us at solutions@visionlink.org. Let's build systems of systems that leverage what we each do, to help so many more. 

Your Visionlink Team