Pursuing a Greater Goal: What happened at the 2018 IHE NA Connectathon

During one productive week in January, hundreds of health industry leaders gathered for the 19th annual IHE North American (NA) Connectathon at Cleveland’s Huntington Convention Center and the HIMSS Innovation Center. What began in 1999 in the basement of a parking garage has become the healthcare industry’s largest, most rigorous interoperability testing event.

In this uniquely collaborative environment, diverse groups from across the health industry gathered to test IHE Profiles and other world-class standards at the IHE NA Connectathon 2018. And in a landscape where legacy health IT systems run parallel with emerging technologies, Plug-a-thon tracks created a meeting point – with a focus on mHealth, Internet of Things, Blockchain, and Devices on FHIR®. Attendees learned from leading experts who identified potential use cases, challenges and opportunities -- and agreed on next steps as these new technologies gain awareness and utilization.

Other events included a HIMSS informational breakfast featuring testing programs including ConCert by HIMSS and the HIMSS Immunization Integration Program, The Road to Interoperability Workshop for health IT executives focused on adoption and implementation of IHE Profiles, a Disruptive Health IT Fireside Chat and Networking Session, and a social event at Dante's Inferno.

Check out IHE NA Connectathon 2018 recap videos from day 1 and day 3 of the event.

Quick Stats

  • 63 organizations participated (including corporate and government systems)
  • 90 discrete individual systems were tested (affecting hundreds of other products)
  • 100+ IHE profiles were available for testing
  • Nearly 500 engineers collaborated to test interoperability
  • 41 independent monitors judged the tests
  • 75 systems will continue to promote their success at the HIMSS18 Interoperability ShowcaseTMMarch 5-8, 2018.


Results from the IHE NA Connectathon 2018 will be available at https://connectathon-results.ihe.net/

Think locally. Connect nationally.

In the Road to Interoperability Workshop, Health IT executives connected with thought leaders helping to drive the national conversation. They heard “in the trenches” stories from organizations successfully implementing IHE Profiles on a national scale.

Didi Davis is Director of Testing for The Sequoia Project, a nonprofit based in Washington DC and home to several interoperability initiatives. Davis shared current work on Sequoia’s national initiatives that impact local communities – such as the eHealth Exchange, the nation’s oldest data-sharing network, with 180 end-points including federal agencies, and representing about 109 million patients.

“We’re trying to help enable all the data in Sequoia – the radiology imaging, labs, clinical documents, to be ubiquitously available and move – because patients move,” says Davis. “The ultimate goal is for the patient to be more in control of their data and for the various organizations to exchange data without all the legal expense of additional frameworks and agreements.”

Davis believes vendors need the IHE NA Connectathon as a place to practice, providing a “safe environment” for engineers and developers. “I remember coming to the second IHE Connectathon as a vendor back in the day,” says Davis with a smile. “It was a pleasure to make our products better, to work through kinks and be ready to operationalize. It’s peer-to-peer testing with nothing in the middle.”

Doug Dietzman is Executive Director of Great Lakes Health Connect and board member of Strategic Health Information Exchange Collaborative (SHIEC). He co-led a session on Patient Centered Data Home with Jason Buckner, Senior Vice President of Informatics for The Health Collaborative. Dietzman explained that while Health Information Exchanges (HIEs) are thought of as being local or geographically bound, with the Patient Centered Data Home there’s been an effort to connect HIE networks across the country to a national framework.

“As people move within but also across networks, we can make sure their clinical data gets back to their home. When people travel, their health data can be queried and sent from their home HIE with a complete record to improve the care available,” says Dietzman. “As HIEs, we knew we were doing a great job in our regions but need an answer when snow birds go from Michigan to Arizona. We need to make sure the provider at risk for these members has all the information they need -- to do proper quality recording, support their value-based payment model, and take care of the person in the best way possible.”

Dietzman says the IHE NA Connectathon is important because his organization doesn’t want to create a new standard. Rather, they want to leverage IHE’s Profiles to exchange information between organizations. “We don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Many of us have to connect to the health exchange anyway so we’re talking about how we use IHE Profiles to exchange and enable the Patient Centered Data Home.”