Connecting for Interoperability – Day 1 at the Connectathon

by Keith W. Boone, GE Healthcare

This morning I woke up at 5 a.m. to head off to the IHE North American Connectathon.  Once again, engineers from  companies across the globe meet up in the basement of the Hyatt Regency in sunny downtown Chicago in January. 

It’s unseasonably warm today, but worry not, by Wednesday, we expect to be back down into subfreezing temps, and by Thursday, near or even sub-zero.  It’s hard for me to believe, but this is now my 10th IHE North American Connectathon (9th if you count on-site participation).

It’s called the North American Connectathon, but about 13% of the attendees are from outside North America, coming from as far away as Austria, Brazil, China, France, India, Italy, Japan, Korea, Netherlands, Saudia Arabia and Syria.  Most attendees are coming to test their implementations of IHE profiles and other standards (like the HL7 C-CDA), and others to learn how to set up similar events in their own regions. 

As I mentioned on Twitter this morning, the Connectathon has come a long way from the basement of the RSNA parking garage in the Chicago suburbs. Watch this video to see what I mean.  Follow the conversation on Twitter @IHE_USA, #CAT13.

The first order of business for most folks today is to power up their laptops, connect to the network, and verify connectivity, and plan out the rest of the week.  A decade ago, many of us would still have been unboxing desktops, connecting monitors, setting up our hosts files and wondering which LAN we were on so we could set our IP mask correctly. 

Today, a lot of those challenges are gone.   We’ve had to learn and grow over the years.  Steve Moore, his staff and team of volunteers do an amazing job each year to make Connectathon a worthwhile experience.

My first order of business for the afternoon was homecoming.  There are people who show up at Connectathon annually who have been leaders in IHE in the past, but whose lives have taken them elsewhere.  Yet they continue to volunteer their time to be Connectathon monitors.  I only get to see them once (or maybe twice) a year. 

One devotee is a security geek who comes here on his vacation time.  Yet another is a former committee chair and colleague in numerous standards organizations, now retired.  Another is the mother of two children who was much more involved, and that we somehow get to have her back for a week, is a pure delight. 

My second order of business is to make sure that everything is appropriately labeled.  Ten years ago, it was cables.  Now it is people ;-)

My role this week is like that of many other IHE leaders.  I’m here to help my teams succeed, and their testing partners as well; at the same time, I’m also here to help IHE profiles succeed (including ones I’ve written), and overall, to help this industry to succeed.

Over the years, the IHE Connectathon has represented for me the culmination of a year’s work developing profiles, several month’s work implementing them, and most importantly of all, the development of friendships and cooperative relationships that go beyond employers and competition. 

We are all here for the same reason.

It’s about connecting systems together so that our families, neighborhoods and nations can have the kind of healthcare they deserve.

Keith W. Boone is a Standards Architect with GE Healthcare.

This entry was posted in Blogging, Health IT News and Developments, Interoperability & Standards, Patient-Centered Systems and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Connecting for Interoperability – Day 1 at the Connectathon

  1. I pray for your success. I would hope that interoperabiltiy include: end-to-end encryption, authentication and authroization between and among practicing clinicians, not machines. Further that the Continuity of Cate Documents and Clinical Notes, attached to email messages, include both structured and unstructured information.

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