Back in the day, did you ever hand-deliver an x-ray to your doctor’s office – to make sure they had the right images to diagnose your case and provide the best treatment? In the late 1990s, the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) began tackling the challenges of sharing medical information between physicians and hospitals. In 1997, RSNA and HIMSS joined forces to create a new nonprofit organization with a mission to advance health IT interoperability, called Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise (IHE). Early testing events were held in the RSNA parking garage and over the years evolved into IHE’s large-scale Connectathon events around the world.
The IHE North America (NA) Connectathon 2018 returns to Cleveland January 15 – 19, 2018 in the Huntington Convention Center and HIMSS Innovation Center. It attracts hundreds of health IT vendors, government agencies and technology users who come together in one room to share ideas in a non-competitive “safe space” -- without fear of losing valuable intellectual property. Participants sign non-disclosure agreements and work together in a spirit of collaboration. “Traditional barriers of competition between health IT vendors are removed on the Connectathon testing floor so vendors can focus on interoperability that advances patient care,” explains Celina Roth, Senior Manager for the IHE NA Connectathon.
What's the value of attending?
Product managers, software engineers, developers and standards experts all come together to coordinate brain power as they test code that would otherwise take months to do. “We bring together companies from the US, Asia, Europe, and Australia who wouldn’t normally talk to each other outside of these walls,” says Roth. “When you get 400 to 500 engineers from competing vendors seated next to each other, this is where interoperability is baked.”
Participants like Qvera, a health IT software company focused on interface engines, have found unique value in attending the Connectathon. “These are great opportunities to work together with other healthcare IT vendors in a collaborative environment, engineer-to-engineer,” said Qvera’s CTO Ron Shapiro. “Face-to-face meetings have a way of facilitating problem-solving in an incredibly efficient manner. At the Connectathon, we’ve solved problems in minutes instead of months.”
IHE Plug-a-thons: bridging the gap between legacy systems and new tech
One of the greatest challenges facing health IT is to connect the older, legacy systems in hospitals with newer platforms and technologies. That’s why the IHE Plug-a-thon was created. As an event within the IHE NA Connectathon, the Plug-a-thon offers four tracks to help participants explore and create new capabilities for products that interoperate with each other.
2018 IHE Plug-a-thon tracks include:
- New! Internet of Things - Medical: January 16-17, 2018
- New! Blockchain - Healthcare: January 17-18, 2018
- mHealth: January 17-18, 2018
- Devices on FHIR: January 16-17, 2018
The IHE Plug-a-thons provide a venue to freely discuss and develop connectivity options and opportunities for targeted use cases. Participants can also attend introductory presentations on how to leverage existing health IT standards. For that reason, the Plug-a-thon tracks can be especially helpful to new engineers getting out of college who may not know the current standards they need in order to develop new products or technologies.
There’s something for everyone to stretch boundaries and take home a useful new approach. “The IHE North American Plug-a-thon testing event strikes a balance between education and early exploratory partner testing for new technologies hitting healthcare,” says John Donnelly, President of IntePro Solutions Inc. and Program Manager for all four Plug-a-thon tracks.
Bright, beautiful facility improves efficiency and speed
This is the fourth year of holding the IHE NA Connectathon in Cleveland and Senior Manager Celina Roth continues to be impressed with the state-of-the art facilities at the Convention Center and the HIMSS Innovation Center. “We used to be in a dark, basement space where we never saw the light of day. Moving the event to Cleveland has really advanced the professionalism. Everyone is so much more productive and efficient in the Cleveland work environment, so the testing goes faster,” says Roth. “The main events take place in the convention center and we hold smaller meetings at the HIMSS Innovation Center, which has a lot of light and is a very open and beautiful space. Both venues have really helped us achieve the ultimate goal, which is to move innovation forward in health IT and advance patient care.”