Road to IHE Connectathon

The Annual IHE Connectathon | Cleveland, Ohio

If you keep up with Ruvos online, you know that last week some of our Integration Engineers hit the road to participate in the annual IHE Connectathon in Cleveland, Ohio. Braving brutal icy weather, Sai Valluripalli, Ruvos Health Information Technology Expert, and Frans de Wet, Ruvos Founder and Senior Data Integration Engineer, joined together with technicians from across North America to test the interoperability of frameworks they work on year round.

The Work

Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise Worldwide (IHE) is an organization that defines and promotes standards — that they organize into ‘Profiles’ — for all different fields of health study. These specializations include dentistry, radiology, cardiology, etc, but there are also Profiles for topics like the coordination and communication between healthcare entities, the physical devices used in clinical settings, and research standards and best practices. All of these topics add up to what we consider patient care for you and me.

While all of this takes place during the same weeklong event, our team was primarily focused on testing two IHE profile categories in particular: Public Health Reporting and IT Infrastructure. For a project called Electronic Case Reporting (eCR) — the project that set out to create automated identification and transmission of reportable health events from the electronic health record (EHR) to state and local public health departments across the country — our team contributes the technical architecture of the Reportable Condition Knowledge Management System (RCKMS) and the APHL Informatics Messaging System (AIMS). A reportable case is any case that contains a disease or condition required to be reported to the public because of its infectious nature or public health importance.

Put simply, a case — following a patient’s EHR — is sent to RCKMS, RCKMS determines if it is reportable, and if it is, AIMS routes (1) the Reportability Response back to the healthcare provider and (2) the electronic case report and Reportability Response to the appropriate Public Health jurisdiction.

The groundwork of eCR uses a handful of transport connections like Direct SMTP, SFTP, PHINMS, and Amazon S3. One of the prevalent protocols is a web-based communication method that exchanges health documents between enterprises called Cross-enterprise Document Reliable Interchange (XDR); XDR has an IHE Profile. Future phases of this project will also require the use of an electronically based standard for exchanging healthcare information called Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) and — you guessed it — many of the Information Technology profiles are standard to FHIR.

The same goes for use and design of audit trails, data retrieval and display, and vital records reporting. Let’s look at these one by one; audit trails are incorporated into all secure applications — these are the logs that keep track of which user took what action at what time from which device, etc. Data retrieval and display is the foundation of any portal or dashboard, so naturally this has implications. Vital records reporting is the underlying purpose of eCR, so you could say that is important as well.

The Connectathon

IHE described this annual event as an “unparalleled opportunity for industry collaboration and problem resolution”. This description is aptly applied to an event where problem solving and elbow grease take center stage over traditional conference pomp and circumstance. Education and networking sessions are still available — the greatest industry minds are all huddled in a hotel ballroom, after all — but IHE self describes this Connectathon’s goals as things like reducing development costs and time to market, improving product quality, and qualifying vendors to participate in the HIMSS Interoperability Showcase. All tangible, critical, and useful aspirations.

Over a week’s time at the “largest interoperability testing event in the world” (1), more than 2 million transactions are tested on tens of thousands of connections between several thousand vendors. At the end of each Connectathon, testing results for each participant are published in a database for future queries, and case studies are written up on particularly outstanding and successful implementations.

Have questions about the Connectathon? Want to know more about how our implementation stacked up? We would love to hear from you (and see you at HIMSS 2019 in Orlando!) Let’s get the conversation going @ThisIsRuvos