February 16, 2016
2016 IHE North American Connectathon Insights
lifeIMAGE was a first-time participant in the 2016 IHE North American Connectathon, held January 25-29 in Cleveland, OH. I recently had the chance to sit down with Saswata Ghose, senior software engineering manager at lifeIMAGE and one of our Connectathon representatives, to discuss the ins and outs of the event. Here’s what I learned.
Q. What is the IHE North American Connectathon?
A. It’s a five-day event that brings together over 1,000 health IT professionals to test the interoperability of their systems. Participants put competition aside and focus on how they can seamlessly connect with each other. Discussions are purely focused on the testing and specs of each system.
Q. Why did lifeIMAGE get involved with the event?
A. lifeIMAGE will also participate in the HIMSS Interoperability Showcase for the first time this year. The Connectathon serves as a “dress rehearsal” for vendors to test the connectivity between the systems they’ve been paired with for the showcase. But overall, our participation stemmed from our belief that true interoperable image exchange needs to be done through a platform that uses a foundation based on industry standards. We felt this was a great opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to interoperability.
Q. What did you have to do to prepare for the event?
A. Prior to the event, all participants are required to indicate which IHE profiles they intend to test during the Connectathon. These profiles serve as common language for integration between participants and their systems, using industry standards like DICOM and HL7. We selected imaging profiles that use standards to facilitate image sharing between systems. All of the prep work was done through Gazelle, an open source platform used for IT testing.
Q. What was a typical day like during the Connectathon?
A. Once you grab your badge on day one, it’s all testing from there. As first-time participants, we were required to connect with a minimum of three unique vendors for each test instance. This meant we had to test a single test instance three separate times. The role we played in each instance was also dependent on the profile. For example, if we were the imaging registry in a test instance, one vendor would act image source and another would serve as the imaging repository, each with their own defined roles to play. Once the testing is complete, the team logs the evidence in Gazelle to be verified by the event monitors. The process is a lot like match making. You need to have a good sense of who your potential testing partners are, if they are good fit for you and the best way to approach them.
Q. What were the results?
A. We successfully completed testing for 11 IHE profiles. Our registry and repository performed over 1,000 transactions throughout that week. And we were able to successfully exchange data with 24 unique vendors.
Q. Why are events like this important to advancing healthcare technology?
A. Events like the Connectathon are important because they show that interoperability between systems is possible. No matter what a system can do on it’s own, it’s hard to simulate this type of situation outside of this type of setting. That’s the beauty of an event like this. It offers a platform for numerous vendors to be in the same space to work together to achieve a common goal. And that’s a great thing.