So this week, while I was at HIC 2013, I spoke to a number of vendors about the FHIR connectathon to be held in Sydney in late October in association with the IHIC 2013 meeting. Most of the vendors have heard of FHIR, and expect that it will have a major impact on them at some stage, but are still unsure about attending the connectathon.
They all asked me pretty much the same set of questions:
- When will FHIR be a reality for me?
- How much will the connectathon cost?
- What makes this worth attending?
Note that the same general logic applies to the question of attending the general FHIR connectathon in Boston on Sept 20-21, though the specific details differ.
When will FHIR be a reality for me?
This is an open question. When we started working on FHIR, we expected that during the trial use period, FHIR would primarily be used where there wasn’t already existing solutions, particularly in the mobile / social web space (SMAC!), where the shared technology base makes it a compelling solution. We didn’t expect that large enterprises, regional projects, or national programs would use it seriously until there were some real runs on the board. And indeed, that’s pretty much what a recently released Gartner report says (no public link I can find).
But in practice, adoption is going to go a lot faster than that. The trial use period won’t start until early next year, but already a number of these programs are doing pre-production analysis and trials on projects that will come to fruition long before the trial period ends. And the most significant adoption will be if IHE adopts FHIR for the Mobile Health Documents – as it seems likely to do. For Australia, this would place FHIR squarely in the future path of the pcEHR development cycle, and there’s already some (very preliminary) work around this. So I do expect FHIR to start impacting on many Australasian vendors sometime next year.
How much will the connectathon cost?
I don’t know about the registration side of things, but there’ll be travel and accomodation, of course (if you aren’t based in Sydney). Beyond that, there’s the preparation question. Each connectathon, we get someone who walks into the room, tells us that they’ve heard about FHIR and the connectathon, sits down, and asks where the specification can be found. They’ve done no preparation at all. That works ok – in effect, the connectathon is just a hands on self-guided tutorial with experts ready to answer any questions. They’ve all ended up exchanging content by the end of the first day. (Just make sure that the development environment is sorted, though, you could waste a lot of hours on that). But we also get people coming to the connectathon who are at the end of their development cycle, and what to nail down the loose ends.
So how much the connectathon costs is up to you – it depends how much preparation you want to do. The minimum cost is travel + accomodation + 2 days labour + registration costs if there are any. The maximum – it can be a lot…
What makes this worth attending?
The FHIR connectathon is worth attending because:
- It’s the best way for techie folks to really get a feel for how FHIR works – it’s as good as a tutorial, if not better
- It’s a lot of fun – a great retainment strategy (for some kinds of developers), and leads to great connections within the industry (really good for troubleshooting interoperability problems)
- Issues that arise from connectathons really make a difference to the final spec. And this connectathon will be the last to be able to influence the trial use version of FHIR
- It looks likely that NEHTA and the National Infrastructure Operator will be there prototyping future services, seeking to gain input from the community. This would be a great way to make practical contributions early in the process, rather than suffering from the difficult change processes that kick in later in the process
- You’ll be signifying your vendor’s interest in the ongoing development of eHealth, since all the evidence says that FHIR is going to have a big impact eventually
- This is likely to be only FHIR connectathon in Australia in the near term
Personally, I reckon that these reasons justify at least the minimum cost easily.