Swan song for Connectathon in Windy City

New venue awaits for popular interoperability event
By John Andrews
10:53 AM
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Swan song for Connectathon in Windy City

Anticipation about the IHE North American Connectathon’s move to Cleveland in 2015 is running high among the event’s organizers, though they insist that they are not looking past their final year in Chicago Jan. 27-31, 2014.

In fact, there are many reasons for excitement at the Windy City event, namely the rollout of the New Directions testing track, designed for testing of innovative health IT applications still in development. Testing services offered in the New Directions track will be sponsored by the IHE USA’s partnering organizations in the healthcare IT industry.

As a result, the Connectathon has expanded to include three offerings -- the Connectathon Classic, which consists of traditional testing; the IHE USA Certification track, now in its second year; and the New Directions track.

[See also: Connectathon is where rubber meets road.] and [Slideshow: The big connection.]

“This program will provide a collaborative and flexible environment for industry groups to come together and test new and innovative approaches to interoperability,” said Michael Nusbaum, New Directions program manager.

“Each cohort will connect to the Connectathon infrastructure, but will operate independently with their own organization and vendor participants, and managed by their own project managers. Participants in this track will be helping to define future interoperability technologies and techniques that will benefit the HIT industry as a whole next year and beyond.”

Alexander Lippitt Jr., senior director of standards and interoperability at HIMSS, adds that “the New Directions program picks up the gap between conception and regulation and there is a lot of discipline that goes into it.”

[See also:Interoperability in its 'last mile'?.]

Among the initiatives that coalesce with New Directions are the HIMSS Health Story Project, Continua’s Plugfest, ONC’s S&I Framework Health eDecisions and the Canada Health Infoway.

Another high point is the Connectathon Conference on Jan. 29 , featuring keynote speaker Doug Fridsma, PhD, chief science officer and director of the Office of Science and Technology for the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. At ONC, Fridsma is responsible for all programs that are focused on providing a foundation for interoperable health information exchange.

“Dr. Fridsma is very much on board with what we’re doing – he understands the value of IHE,” said Joyce Sensmeier, IHE USA President and HIMSS vice president of informatics.

Over the years Sensmeier has seen the Connectathon grow from an experimental exercise to a multi-faceted program that serves as the bellwether for healthcare interoperability on a global scale.
“Each year the scope of the Connectathon increases – our goal is not just to test and connect, but to get those systems into products in healthcare across the globe,” she said. “The program helps move the bar forward. There is a lot of benefit for individuals and companies to come here for a vendor-neutral chance to test products and do things in a collaborative atmosphere.”

Headed East
The move to Cleveland in 2015 is more than just a change of venue for the Connectathon -- it represents the full realization of the HIMSS Innovation Center, which occupies the fourth floor of the Globe Center for Health Innovation.

The HIMSS Innovation Center was created to solve real-world clinical workflow and financial transactional challenges, enable systemic compliance with regulations and effective healthcare delivery, educate stakeholders on health policy and inform and educate policymakers.

“Cleveland’s state-of-the-art Convention Center and Global Center for Health Innovation -- called ‘The Globe’ by the locals – has provided Cleveland with the opportunity to become an epicenter for healthcare and innovation,” said Celina Roth, HIMSS manager of informatics and staff liaison to the IHE. “Together these two venues are creating a new renaissance in downtown and revitalizing the city.”