FHIR Connectathon Links Health Technology Efforts From 17 Countries

AEGIS supported testing for electronic health record vendors using the Touchstone testing platform, enabling them to connect and use terminology servers…The management and proper use of terminology is fundamental to effective, interoperable data exchange.

AEGIS assisted in the coordination of the 18th HL7 FHIR Connectathon in Cologne, Germany May 12-13, 2018. There were nearly 100 people from 17 different countries working to refine the FHIR specification. Technologists and clinicians from Argentina, Australia, Austria, Canada, France, Germany, India, Israel, Korea, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Russia, South Korea, Switzerland, United Kingdom and the United States came together. Over the course of 48 hours a lot of intense work was completed to advance the FHIR specification. Below are some notable highlights:

Most of the attendees at the FHIR Connectathon came with a solid understanding of the specification and a goal to contribute to making it better. While the FHIR community encourages and supports first time attendees, this international event seemed to draw mostly advanced FHIR implementers. Many brought feedback from their user communities and shared it with their track group made up of others focused on the same topic. The HL7 Clinicians on FHIR group was present during the technical event to aid tracks with clinical workflow questions as they developed code. In the past, Clinicians on FHIR has been a separate event held days after the Connectathon so it was a great change to have doctors and nurses in the room for immediate feedback.

Several of the tracks seemed to evolve from focusing on initial development of FHIR resources to considerations of more formal testing. The terminology services track has been meeting regularly at HL7 FHIR Connectathons since 2015 and has adopted a formal testing approach. AEGIS supports testing for electronic health record vendors using the Touchstone testing platform, and endabled this track to connect and use terminology servers in Cologne. A FHIR terminology service lets healthcare applications make use of codes and value sets without having to become experts in the details of the value set resource, and the underlying code systems. The management and proper use of terminology is fundamental to effective, interoperable data exchange. This is an important capability to provide and test as it crosses many of the FHIR tracks and will support advanced testing as the FHIR specification goes normative.

There were 18 different tracks which you can find details about on the HL7 FHIR Connectathon 18 wiki. There were three tracks with areas of focus that were new to the Connectathon this time around.

One new track was the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) track which examined how FHIR capabilities can be used to enable organizations to be GDPR compliant. The European Union General Data Protection Regulation will go into effect on May 25. GDPR requires healthcare providers to obtain affirmative consent for any data collected from people who reside in the EU. Organizations that violate the law will face fines (the greater of four percent of their annual revenue or 20 million euros). This connectathon track is developing FHIR resources that healthcare providers need to meet GDPR requirements such as the erasure of content and affirmative consent.

The Storage and Analytics track made up of Google and four other companies focused on sharing their experience with FHIR implementers who heavily use storage and search capabilities. This group was able to develop a working prototype that will enable those using FHIR storage to replicate their data into analytic databases. This will allow provider organizations to use their existing database schema to store FHIR resources.

The third new track, International Patient Summary (IPS) tested the creation and exchange of FHIR IPS documents for cross-border, unscheduled patient care that facilitates the use of multiple languages. This data exchange is especially relevant in European settings where cross-border health care services are common.

HL7 FHIR Connectathons are consistently bringing smart subject matter experts from every aspect of health IT into one room as a community. Together we learn, fail forward, and advance the mission of building a new specification that will deliver improvements in the provision of healthcare throughout the world. The development of this specification is game-changing, and AEGIS is thrilled to have a supporting role in that change.

2 thoughts on “FHIR Connectathon Links Health Technology Efforts From 17 Countries

  1. Hi Sandy, thank you so much for supporting the FHIR Connectathon! The Cologne session was quite fruitful and I am looking forward to the next HL7 meeting in September.

    Cheers, Michel

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