Our Vision

The OpenHMIS Project is a collaborative effort, sponsored by Pathways Community Network Institute and the Georgia Dept. of Community Affairs, to build a common platform for creation of Internet-based tools to assist communities/agencies in providing services to the homeless.

The OpenHMIS Project involves designing and developing a basic open source HMIS that collects HUD-required data elements.  It will include a simple user interface, open standard API and HUD-mandated reports such as the Annual Performance Report (APR), Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) and data quality reports.

While the applications developed by the OpenHMIS Project are open source, the OpenHMIS standards are meant to be used by anyone, including proprietary commercial applications.  The OpenHMIS project strives for standards-compliant interoperability among HMIS applications, and welcomes participation by all vendors who share an interest in supporting good case management practices and in improving outcomes for clients.


Project Status

As of January 2015:

OpenHMIS is currently under development, both in terms of the data standards and the software applications.  Its development has been greatly accelerated by the HMIS Expansion Project in 2014, which has enabled much progress on both fronts as part of meeting the Expansion Project deliverables.  Over the next six months, we expect to:
  1. Finalize the OpenHMIS data schema (see below).
  2. Finalize the OpenHMIS API (also see below).
  3. Release and use software applications that exemplify the core capabilities of OpenHMIS.
The OpenHMIS data schema is the set of expected information fields and the relationships between those fields -- for example, fields like "Client", "Agency", "Bed Unit", etc (with detailed subfields), and the relationships between them.  Having a defined set of entities and relationships enables OpenHMIS-compatible applications to speak to one another easily, and allows agencies to search efficiently, generate mutually comprehensible reports, have inter-application compatibility, etc.

The OpenHMIS API ("application programming interface") is just the protocol by which applications access that data schema securely over the Internet.  The API includes standards for authorization, so that only people who should have access get access, and standards for how data is to be sent to and from client software.

Together, the data schema and the API are meant to enable an ecosystem of OpenHMIS-compatible applications that can receive and transmit HMIS data securely and smoothly.  Some of those applications are being built as open source software by the OpenHMIS project itself; others will be written by third-party service providers and other organizations that manage HMIS information.  OpenHMIS serves as a common language that all these applications can depend on.

While some earlier work in OpenHMIS was based on HUD 2010 standards, that work is now being updated; once finalized, the latest version of OpenHMIS will adhere to the recently-released HUD 2014 data standards.

The diagram below shows the current status of OpenHMIS.  While much progress has been made on the finalization of the API, there remains some reconciliation to be done (see the top of the diagram) between the API as currently implemented by the in-progress Mobile Outreach App, and the final API that will eventually be part of the OpenHMIS standard.  Such reconciliation processes are normal when real-world applications are used to drive development of an API, and generally improve the quality of the final API for everyone.

OpenHMIS Project Overview

The Homeless Helper Services Locator mobile application is actively maintained, but was originally written for the older API based on the 2010 HUD standards; Homeless Helper will be updated to use the new API after that API is finalized.

Certain applications, such as the Data Quality Report App, use a direct database connection to the service provider's (instead of using the API).  Because the OpenHMIS database schema is part of the OpenHMIS standard, these applications are just as compatible with OpenHMIS as applications that use the network API.  Furthermore, some are built using the open source Jasper Reports system, which will give other organizations a head start in developing their own reporting systems, because they will be able to build on (and perhaps contribute to) the Jasper Reports configurations published by the OpenHMIS project.

The OpenHMIS project is also working on a "Simple Demo App", whose purpose is both to show potential adopters the potential of the OpenHMIS ecosystem, and to serve as a code example for software developers learning to use the API and/or schema to create new applications.