By Joyce Sensmeier MS, RN-BC, FHIMSS, FAAN, Senior Advisor, Informatics at HIMSS, President of Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise (IHE) USA
Change is in the air. The inauguration of a new president of the United States and new federal agency appointees will together bring fresh perspectives to much of what we do in healthcare. These new viewpoints will also help amplify IHE USA’s vision to improve the quality, safety, and value of healthcare by enabling rapid, scalable, and secure access to health information at the point of care. The challenges created by a raging pandemic and our increasing need to easily access and exchange health information are rapidly expanding collaboration around the globe, providing an urgent call to action for those working on standards-based interoperability. The 2021 IHE North American Connectathon, occurring March 1-5, will be center stage for sharing insights gained by the remarkable work that is occurring globally to achieve our shared goal of widespread interoperability and health information exchange.
Twenty Years of Working to Accelerate Standards Adoption
For over 20 years, Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise (IHE) and its Connectathons has provided a trusted global venue for health IT system developers to test interoperability implementations in a structured, supervised, and collaborative environment. Since 1998, the IHE North American (NA) Connectathon has enabled private and public sector health IT developers to test their production-ready systems to ensure they can deliver on the promises of impactful interoperability to their customers. A host of knowledgeable experts from across the IHE community have spent decades refining testing processes that leverage mature, extensive test tools to achieve the ultimate goal of patients and providers - being able to securely access and use accurate health information, wherever needed, in real-time. The enhanced level of rigor the IHE Connectathon brings to its interoperability testing successfully builds upon global standards development work to help guide health IT developers on the most effective way to integrate standards into their production-ready systems to achieve specific interoperability functions.
Gearing Up for The Work Ahead
Over the past 10 months, IHE has been enhancing its virtual, comprehensive open-source test management platform, Gazelle, which now provides health IT developers with access to over 20 interoperability conformance testing tools all in one location. New for 2021, IHE USA has also expanded its NA Connectathon testing event to virtually co-host a series of education sessions and Standards Acceleration tracks focused on global, local, and personal health. These Standards Acceleration tracks tie together theme-focused testing, education, demonstrations, and deep dives, as well as hands-on labs designed to bring together key stakeholders to make actionable progress on areas such as:
- Global Health: Emerging FHIR®-based health exchanges
- Local Health: Local, State, and National Interoperability Initiatives
- Personal Health: Medical Devices and Health Apps
According to the Global Digital Health Partnership, key barriers to interoperability include 1) lack of universal adoption of standards-based EHRs and 2) challenges managing coordinated action among and across multiple organizations. IHE USA and the NA Connectathon are working directly with health IT developers, providers, and policymakers to take on these challenges one enterprise at a time. Featured sessions in the 2021 IHE NA Connectathon Standards Acceleration tracks will highlight Deploying the International Patient Summary and Immunization Content as well as a demonstration of the OpenHIE on FHIR®. Connectathon participants will learn how to prepare for federal requirements coming soon from the 21st Century Cures Act to eliminate information blocking and actualize real-world testing. IHE USA has worked to accelerate real-world interoperability by developing FHIR® R4-based IHE integration profiles, such as Mobile Health Documents, now available for testing in 2021. These innovative IHE integration profiles offer health IT developers key capabilities necessary to be in compliance with the Cures Act regulation.
Healthcare is experiencing an accelerated journey towards digital health transformation. Seamless and secure interoperability provides the foundation for achieving the goals of that transformation. In a digital health ecosystem, interoperability advances the goal of optimizing health by providing seamless access to the right information needed to more comprehensively understand and address the health of individuals and populations. Participation in the 2021 IHE NA Connectathon will help you, and your organization, address interoperability barriers and enable all of us to realize the vision of a digital health ecosystem.