Discussion flows at YourTurn sessions

By Mike Miliard
01:46 PM
Discussion flows at YourTurn sessions

Fittingly, Shahid Shah began his YourTurn@HIMSS14 session with a show of hands.

New this year at the 2014 HIMSS Annual Conference & Exhibition, YourTurn has a democratic spirit. It's a collaborative series of free-flowing 45-minute forums where hosts and attendees are on equal footing: How the conversation unspools is left entirely to how the audience directs it.

The slate of discussions on Tuesday – from patient ID to EHR usability to telemedicine – was drawn from ideas submitted by conference attendees. The topics were chosen based on how much audience interest was anticipated.

Shah, known by many as the ‘The Healthcare IT Guy’, is a software engineer whose topic, "Developer Platforms for Next Generation Healthcare Apps," was meant as a "somewhat geeky, somewhat technical" colloquy, he said.

He asked audience members to raise hands if they were builders or developers of technology. Unsurprisingly, most of them were. And so, as Shah reminded the crowd that it was up to them to "help us decide where the directionality should go," a spirited discussion kicked of about the nature and future of healthcare development platforms.

Asked one attendee: “How, exactly, to define what a platform is?”

Shah offered his favorite interpretation, one put forth by pioneering software engineer Marc Andreessen: "A platform is really a solution where other developers are the users of that system."

Beyond that, said Shah, a critical element of the definition is that "almost all platforms are going to be connected … there will not be a single platform that will rule them, where all apps are built on it."

A bit later, sensing a lull in audience engagement, Shah joked that, "If you guys don't say anything, I'm going to keep talking – and I could go for five or six hours."

Responding to the request, one attendee asked, "What do you consider good health IT platforms?" Shah pointed to Open Health Tools and OSEHRA, the Open Source Electronic Health Record Alliance.

Discussion then turned to the merits or demerits of open versus proprietary platforms; then to the difference between standards and platforms; then a talk about specs such as HL7 and DICOM; and on to a talk on the Direct Project, where it lingered for several more minutes.

"There is no off-topic," said Shah. "That's the nice thing about this conversation: If everybody decides they want to talk about Direct, it becomes a conversation about Direct."