IHE Connectathon 2013, A Year of Firsts

The annual IHE Connectathon event in North America brings together healthcare IT vendors for one week every year to test the interoperability of their products. The IHE organization itself defines profiles for the healthcare IT industry, which are methods for sharing healthcare information. These profiles are tested throughout the week to help ensure that vendors will have interoperable products when required to share data in real scenarios for customers.

The profiles tested ranged in scope from medical device communications to HIE interoperability. These profiles are the basis for industry communications, such as those defined by the NwHIN Exchange for querying patient data or those used by the Direct Project for pushing patient data. Various profiles have been tested at the annual Connectathon since 1999.

The 2013 IHE Connectathon was significant in that it introduced new programs this year:

Consolidated CDA is an HL7 standard that was introduced in the Final Rule for Meaningful Use Stage 2. It is the required format for exchanging patient health summary documents. With this new requirement for Consolidated CDA use, IHE incorporated the creation and consumption of Consolidated CDA documents into its annual Connectathon testing. The sharing of Consolidated CDA documents was tested by 27 applications at this inaugural event.

The IHE Connectathon also provided another layer of testing through certification of various profiles in conjunction with ICSA Labs. This level of certification is granted based on ISO/IEC guidelines for providing product certification. Official certification is expected to “greatly enhance the value of IHE Integration profiles in products that are available in the marketplace.” noted Joyce Sensmeier, President, IHE USA.

IHE Connectathon plays an important part in promoting interoperability of patient data in healthcare. From a vendor’s point of view, it provides a sand box to work out the kinks of seamless exchange of data before being put in the line of fire at an implementation. For providers, it provides reassurance that their chosen vendor has demonstrated its ability to share data, at least in a test environment.

2013 has been a good start to year for IHE. They set the bar higher for vendors to test more criteria to become officially certified, and vendors responded with a record attendance of over 500 attendees to test these profiles. It is just another step in healthcare interoperability pressing forward.