Tuesday, January 29, 2013

IHE Connect-A-Thon

Connect-A-Thon, pronounced like Marathon, is a huge geek party of healthcare IT enthusiasts. Its an event organized by IHE where healthcare IT and medical device vendors test their products' interoperability.

IHE develop and publish technical frameworks for the different domains of healthcare. There's Technical frameworks for Anatomic Pathology, Cardiology, Eye Care, IT Infrastructure, Laboratory, Patient Care Coordination, Patient Care Device, Pharmacy, Quality, Research and Public Health, Radiation Oncology, Radiology.

The technical frameworks (TF) are detailed document very much like software specifications that describe integration profiles, i.e. scenarios, with descriptions of actors and transactions much like the text of a play or a movie. Every actor has the transactions that it can perform to cary out a task.

Let's do an example. I've written a lot about DICOM Query Retrieve and Modality Worklist. IHE describe these services in the the radiology (RAD) scheduled workflow (SWF) integration profile. query and Retrieve are transactions RAD-14 and RAD-16 and in the documents that IHE publish these transactions are described in very detail down to the level of required and optional keys for the request and the response of the modality and the image manager (the name for PACS actor in IHE TF).

During the connect-a-thon all the participants perform tests scenarios together and IHE monitors validate the results by going over the logs and watching the transactions being performed on the event hall. At the end of the connect-a-thon IHE publishes an excel spreadsheet with the list of vendors and the actors that have successfully tested their systems and passed the tests. for example, if you develop an ultrasound machine then in the excel it will look like a line with your company name and system name and it will state that you've tested your system as RAD SWF IM. So for example a vendor that would like to buy your product can open this spreadsheet and verify that your product integrate well with another vendors' PACS that he consider buying. If both systems participated in the event and performed the same transactions then theres a better chance that they can work together well.

But there's more value in the connect-a-thon then just getting your name on the excel sheet which I don't underestimate at all but this year I've come to Chicago with a clear mission: to test my customer's product with as many other products as possible in an environment as close as possible to a real hospital installation. There's no other opportunity to achieve this goal within a week that matches the connectathon. This is a real value that every software or product development manager can justify. So if you work for a medical device company and develop or test interfaces like HL7, CDA, DICOM XDS and haven't yet participated in a connectathon, go to your boss and make her read this paragraph and if he (or she) doesn't send you to register for one of the coming connect-a-thons right on the spot then either there are very good reasons why not to (and I can't think of many but for budget constraints) or he's a complete ___ ____!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Live from the IHE NA Connect-A-Thon in Chicago


IHE NA Connect-A-Thon 2013 about to begin
I'm in the NA Connect-A-Thon now and the show is about to begin. I'll try to update more and explain about this amazing event later this week. Now we're busy configuring.

The connect-a-thon is a great way to test your systems as many vendors gather in the same place at the same time to run tests together.

I'll add more details later.