With the recent release of the ONC's Interoperability Roadmap draft, healthcare software interoperability is once again at the forefront of healthcare organizations' and healthcare IT vendors' minds. There is a great deal of cynicism in the market right now about the state of interoperability; a quick search of any healthcare discussion forum such as the HIMSS group on LinkedIn will yield dozens of comments lamenting the failure of interoperability and data sharing in the U.S.
Most of those comments point the finger squarely at HIT vendors for having closed platforms and not embracing standards-based interoperability. Wouldn't it be great if we could break down all the competitive and political barriers, get all the vendors in one room for a week, and have them spend the entire time connecting with each other and exchanging data? Funny you should ask – because that just happened last week, and it has been happening every year since 1999.
I find that many people working in healthcare, particularly those with no technical background, have never heard of IHE or the Connectathon. IHE (Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise) is an organization that develops standards, called Profiles. Each Profile is targeted to solve a particular business challenge in healthcare involving communication between multiple systems. The Profiles accomplish this by taking existing standards from organizations, such as HL7 FHIR, and constraining those standards to facilitate interoperability.
At IHE Connectathons, vendors that have implemented these Profiles connect their systems together to test interoperability. Each Profile has a number of tests associated with it and vendors receive pass/fail grades for each test and Profile. All of this testing occurs within an atmosphere of cooperation among the vendors, even bitter rivals.
What happens when you put a few hundred developers together in a room? They work together to solve problems.
InterSystems participated in the 2015 IHE Connectathon in late January, as we have every year since 2007. Because we place interoperability at the center of our strategy, attending Connectathon is critical for our success. The InterSystems HealthShare platform has evolved over time, and Connectathon provides us with a great opportunity to test out our new functionality against a wide range of other clinical systems. The event also helps us to ensure that all of our pre-existing interoperability capabilities continue to function.
Connectathon is not simply an opportunity to test software; it is also a direct reflection of an HIT developer's commitment to standards-based interoperability. The companies who take this stuff seriously are there every year with teams of engineers ready to put their products through their paces.
If you would like to see more information about IHE and the Connectathon, please go to: http://www.ihe.net
If you would like to see what IHE Profiles your vendors have tested, please go to: http://connectathon-results.ihe.net (Note: the 2015 results will be posted some time in February 2015.)