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Tuesday, March 14, 2017 12:00 PM

Update from IHE Connectathon 2017

Written by Zack Jones, Developer, Iatric Systems

How IHE Simplifies Medical Device ConnectivityHealthcare depends on interoperability – bringing the right data to the right people at the right time, so that data can be used to improve patient care. I saw these principles in action at the IHE Connectathon event in Cleveland this year. For those unfamiliar with IHE Connectathon, it's the world’s largest healthcare IT interoperability testing event, where medical device vendors, EHR vendors, and other industry partners come together to test, to network, and to collaborate.

Continue reading to find out how IHE Connecthathon benefits hospitals…

For people like me who live and breathe this stuff, it was an exciting, action-packed few days, and far different from typical vendor-to-vendor interoperability testing that happens the rest of the year. Vendor-to-vendor testing that happens outside of IHE Connectathon usually entails setting up lots of meetings, scheduling lots of phone calls, traveling long distances, etc. That's not exactly the type of work us programmers love. We’d rather write code, test it, succeed, and move on! The latter is the type of fast-paced progress we experience at IHE Connectathon.

How IHE Testing Benefit Hospitals

IHE Connectathon participants, primarily vendors, demonstrate integration between systems and devices according to IHE test profiles developed in partnership with the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). For more details on IHE test profiles, how they’re structured, and IHE nomenclature, see this blog post.

The IHE Connectathon event turns traditional interoperability testing on its head. Vendors and partners sit at long tables working together in a collaborative environment outside the constraints of a contractual relationship with each other or with hospitals. Following strict guidelines, we demonstrate the ability to integrate devices and systems under very compressed timeframes, accomplishing in a few days what typically can take months or even years.

That type of major advancement in interoperability (outside the constraints of a contractual relationship with vendors) is just one of the benefits IHE brings to hospitals. IHE is also about building relationships between vendors, which leads to smoother collaboration during actual hospital engagements. And finally, a vendor’s ability to demonstrate compliance with IHE standards also gives a hospital confidence that the vendor can complete a connectivity project on-time and on-budget.

Demonstrating IHE Compliance

Speaking of IHE compliance, Iatric Systems Accelero Connect® medical device integration solution demonstrated compliance with several IHE profiles. Download our new IHE Integration Statement for details. If IHE profile names still sound somewhat foreign, here’s some handy translations:

  • Alarm Communication Management / Alert Consumer – This means Accelero Connect has the ability to pass alarms from devices (such as vital sign monitors, ventilators, and smart pumps) to other systems (like EHRs and alarm management systems).
  • Device Enterprise Communication / Device Observation Consumer – This means Accelero Connect has the ability to consume results from devices (such as vital sign monitors and ventilators).
  • Device Enterprise Communication / Device Observation Reporter – This means Accelero Connect has the ability to pass results (like vital signs and ventilator data) to EHRs.
  • Point-of-Care Infusion Verification / Infusion Order Programmer – This means that Accelero Connect has the ability to pass EHR IV medication orders to smart pumps (also known as Smart Pump Programming).
  • Infusion Pump Event Communication / Device Observation Consumer – This means that Accelero Connect has the ability to consume data coming from smart pumps (start and stop times, actual volume infused, etc.).
  • Infusion Pump Event Communication / Device Observation Report – This means that Accelero Connect has the ability to send smart pump data to EHRs (also known as Auto-Documentation).

IHE Changes: A Dynamic Landscape

Prior to this year, the last IHE Connectathon event I attended was in 2015, and I was struck by how much has changed in just two years. Technology improvements were everywhere, with new offerings from pump and monitor vendors, with device after device packing greater functionality in a smaller physical footprint.

As you might expect, data transfers between reporting and consuming systems involved substantially greater volumes than two years ago – but also smarter data. There was more intelligence around what data is selected for sharing, rather than simply sending an unfiltered mass of data for the receiving system to sort out. There was also more device-specific metadata, more location-specific data, and more data associated with alarms. Hospitals may be eager to put all this data to work.

Another takeaway: IHE is evolving in parallel with technology. As we all know, the healthcare landscape is incredibly dynamic, which means that testing standards have to keep up in order to remain meaningful. One of the strong points about IHE – I know this firsthand as an active participant in IHE's monthly meetings – is their commitment to continually assessing market demands and adapting to changes. Since 2015, test profiles have been updated and expanded to include new data fields and sources (for example, the ability to include waveform data in an alarm). Test profiles that were in their infancy two years ago are now accepted standards.

Healthcare technology doesn’t stand still, neither does integration testing, and neither do the vendors that participate in IHE.