The annual IHE North American Connectathon is underway in Cleveland with 570 engineers testing more than 200 products.
The event has grown every year, said Vice President of Informatics for HIMSS, Joyce Sensmeier, in an interview with Clinical Innovation + Technology . Thirty new participants this year are working with the others to get past the challenges of interoperability. “There are huge barriers in healthcare to get to the point of every clinician being able to access information at the point of care and every consumer being able to access their information. That’s the nirvana of interoperability we seek.”
The biggest obstacle is that not everyone is using the same standards to enable communication between products and vendors. Stakeholders also all need to “implement standards in a consistent way so we can get beyond the barriers.”
Sensmeier said she looks forward to the upcoming interoperability roadmap from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT because “the national direction has not always been clear.” But, those working on the roadmap have taken in a lot of information, she said, and put a lot of time into the planning. “There’s an opportunity to learn from that and how it will evolve in the future.”
There has been a lot of work on interoperability in recent years, she said, but not one coordinated effort. The roadmap sends the message that it is a national priority. Industry will take notice, she said.
It’s important for the roadmap to align with Meaningful Use, she said. “When organizations implement, they sometimes take different approaches. I hope the roadmap aligns with Stage 3 so there are not two separate paths to follow and they provide the clarity the marketplace needs.”
The Connectathon plays an important role in the interoperability process, she said, because afterward, providers can request systems that have certain features and components. IHE also is working with HIMSS on a certification component. IHE committees, before testing, discussed the problems and challenges facing providers and then the technical committees worked on standards. “Providers have a role at the beginning of the process, telling us what they want and identifying challenges, and at the end by buying the systems” that best serve their needs.
The event also raises awareness of required standards among vendors. “These standards are beginning to occur and then coordinated efforts come into play.” And, final independent testing means industry will align their products better and patients are better served.
Meanwhile, the Connectathon has moved out of windowless basement venues of past years to the Global Center for Health Innovation for the first time this year. Sensmeier said she was nervous but 570 people are taking bandwidth “without a hiccup” at the state-of-the-art facility. Being adjacent to the convention center also allows people to go from heavy testing to educational sessions and be mentored in what it takes to be a participant next year. She said companies are attending this year that want to participate and “this helps them be more savvy about how to prepare.”