IHE USA held its 16th annual North American Connectathon in Chicago, January 27-31. This year’s event brought together 113 companies to test the interoperability and conformance to standards of more than 146 health IT systems. Fierce competing vendors collaboratively tested system capabilities based on IHE Profiles that are developed by IHE domain committees. Key areas of expansion included mobile access, patient care devices, laboratory systems and cross-enterprise exchange of information.
Again this year, IHE USA continued the expansion of testing services at the IHE North American (NA) Connectathon. A new testing track called New Directions was launched to foster cooperation amongst interoperability leaders and evaluate best practices for hospitals and medical offices to streamline the secure exchange of patient data. New Directions enables testing of emerging specifications developed by IHE and other standards organizations, including the HIMSS Health Story Project and a joint initiative between IHE USA and the Standards & Interoperability (S&I) Framework to develop a model for federated healthcare provider directories.
Many test participants at the NA Connectathon will also take part in the HIMSS Interoperability ShowcaseTM at the HIMSS14 Annual Conference & Exhibition in Orlando, FL, February 23-26, 2014.
“This year’s NA Connectathon brought together multiple organizations and companies to securely advance information exchange across health IT systems – whether a basic clinical summary or an in-depth review of lab results across the continuum of care,” said Joyce Sensmeier, MS, RN-BC, CPHIMS, FHIMSS, FAAN, president, IHE USA, vice president of informatics, HIMSS. “With the rising cost of healthcare and new regulations on the Affordable Care Act, it is more important than ever to invest in interoperable systems that improve the delivery of care and health outcomes.”
The event included a one-day educational event, IHE North American Connectathon Conference, keynoted by the Chief Science Officer and Director of the ONC’s Office of Science and Technology, Doug Fridsma MD. The program also included numerous speakers from various health information exchange perspectives discussing the challenges facing their organizations and the benefits of improved access to health information. Key findings include:
•Health information exchanges need a strong foundation in standards and interoperability to succeed
•Forums like IHE can foster a practical approach to achieving interoperability to address critical use cases
•Even with that foundation established, information exchange generally must be implemented at sites that have diverse systems in place
•HIEs will need to refine their methods and practices over time
•Starting simple and building on successes is the best way these networks can grow
The Connectathon contributes to eHealth interoperability by offering participants a structured, monitored test environment where they can refine their systems to improve healthcare interoperability and reduce the expense of repeated implementation testing at user sites. The intense five-day testing schedule allows them to refine and test their systems to ensure the interoperable exchange of patient records and medical information.
“Over the years, my own skills in developing standards have been significantly improved simply by seeing what implementers struggle with at Connectathon,” said Gila Pyke, IHE IT Infrastructure Co-chair, who has attended the event since 2005. “On top of that, as someone who works to help healthcare providers implement IHE standards, the value of knowing in advance that software can meet certain basic requirements as established in IHE Profiles, and as tested to conformance through IHE USA Certification at Connectathon, is immense.”
Next year, the IHE North American Connectathon 2015 will be held in its new home at the HIMSS Innovation Center in Cleveland, Ohio on January 26-30, 2015.
About IHE USA:
IHE USA (www.iheusa.org) is a 501.c.3 not for profit public charity founded in 2010. Its vision is to improve the quality, value, and safety of healthcare by enabling rapid, scalable, and secure access to health information at the point of care. IHE USA operates as a national deployment committee of IHE International in order to advance its mission to improve U.S. healthcare by promoting the adoption and use of IHE and other world-class standards, tools, and services for interoperability. IHE USA engages all levels of public and private sector participants to test, implement, and use standards-based solutions for all health information needs.