Recap of the HL7 Work Group Meeting + 2023

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HL7 May 2023 POCP Group shot (1)-modifiedRecently, Point-of-Care Partners (POCP) had the opportunity to send a contingent of POCPers to the HL7 Working Group Meeting (WGM+) held in New Orleans, LA. This meeting marked a departure from the traditional format, providing an innovative experience for attendees. Although the event did not seem to attract a significantly different crowd compared to past meetings, it still offered informative sessions and valuable content that was positively received by our team and others we spoke with at the event and afterward. In this blog post, we will delve into what we considered the highlights of the event, the factors that may have influenced attendance, and the themes of the sessions as well as our “Aha” moments.

A New Format

The new HL7 WGM+ meeting format aimed to enhance the overall experience for participants, expand the audience, and promote a better understanding of the interplay between standards and policy. The objective was to augment the format of the familiar work group meetings with focused sessions that would offer updates and education to a broader, non-technical audience in addition to fostering networking opportunities and encouraging collaboration. This was also a hybrid event where some sessions were open to virtual attendance. This fresh approach demonstrated HL7's commitment to adapting to the evolving needs of the industry.

Attendance Challenges

Despite the efforts to innovate, the meeting did not see a significant deviation from the expected attendee profile based on previous gatherings, however, our team noted a few more policy faces in the crowd. There are a few possible reasons for this. Firstly, the new meeting format was organized on a relatively short timeline, leaving limited time for organizations to spread the word and allocate travel budgets for their staff to attend. It is common for companies to plan their conference calendar well in advance, and the unexpected scheduling of the HL7 WGM+ likely affected turnout.

Perhaps more importantly, the industry had just concluded several significant conferences in a row including ViVE, HIMSS, and Asembia, which may have resulted in travel fatigue for many professionals. The HL7 WGM+ coincided with the NCPDP Annual Meeting, causing potential conflicts for those who would have otherwise attended both events. The confluence of these factors likely impacted the number of attendees at the HL7 meeting. We hope to see this format continue and perhaps scheduled around the September WGM to allow more stakeholders to attend and enjoy a robust agenda. 

Informative Sessions and Valuable Content

The sessions held during the HL7 WGM+ were highly informative and valuable. The presenters, who were knowledgeable experts in their respective fields, delivered engaging content that addressed the latest developments and trends in healthcare technology.

Updates from the HL7 Accelerators on their work were provided. Folks from CMS and ONC were in attendance and gave policy and government updates reinforcing the topics and themes from their rules, including the fact the industry will and is moving toward APIs. The focus on patients as the “why” for the work we do in health IT was reinforced. Related to standards requirements and certification, there was robust discussion around determining the right versioning "floor" while advancing the use of new standards. The challenges of implementing data standards to support health equity were also discussed, with potential opportunities for better coordination between organizations wanting to address the issue. The meeting also covered the implications of state-based regulations on burden reduction and prior authorization.

There were a few notable sessions on global FHIR efforts and the robust FHIR adoption not only in the US but across the globe. There was one session that featured speakers from the World Health Organization, German Corporation for International Cooperation (GIZ) and Digital Square. This session highlighted that global institutions have dedicated departments with budgets focused on digital health and interoperability on a global scale in addition to the increased cooperation regionally on digital health initiatives.

Business transformation and re-engineering were highlighted as the key to getting value from FHIR workflows; however, the challenges of change management were also acknowledged. Finally, the importance of data models and the evolving nature of technology were emphasized, as health systems continue to struggle financially while trying to tackle the high burden of patient care.

Our Aha! Moments

During their attendance at the HL7 WGM+ meeting, POCPers experienced several "aha!" moments. We noted that the leaders in healthcare technology are significantly ahead of the crowd and not just by a nose. It’s clear that there is a critical need to promote awareness, drive adoption, and implement new solutions in the industry to bring those who have put off investments up from behind.

Testing tools and processes were identified as an area for improvement. More specifically, recognizing that the current Connectathon testing framework falls short. Implementers need better support and connectivity between testing events. Furthermore, our crew acknowledged the importance of real-world implementation data and the significant effort required to gather and align such data for individual organizations. The industry needs a resource we can all access and leverage.

The formation of the HL7 Standards Implementation Division and the proposed addition of a Standards Implementation Steering Committee generated enthusiasm, as it provided a peer group to support the division's chief and foster a collaborative governance framework. The new committee whose structure is still being fine-tuned will identify and evaluate Standards Implementation Division activities such as education, program management, and community engagement. Finally, there was a lively debate regarding the establishment of an HL7 workgroup dedicated to AI, with some expressing reservations about creating a new group.

POCPs' participation in the HL7 Working Group Meeting in New Orleans provided a valuable opportunity to engage with industry experts and stay informed about the latest developments in healthcare technology. While the meeting did not draw a significantly different crowd compared to past events, the innovative format and the presence of knowledgeable presenters from across the globe ensured attendees received valuable insights. Despite the challenges posed by a short timeline and the proximity to other industry conferences, the HL7 WGM+ meeting in New Orleans succeeded in delivering informative sessions and reinforcing industry requirements. As the healthcare industry continues to evolve, it is essential to adapt and find new ways to connect and collaborate, ensuring that all stakeholders can actively contribute to the advancement of healthcare interoperability and standards.

If you and your team need help understanding the standards and policy landscape, explore our Interoperability Outlook Subscription service to help you and your team with monitoring and understanding standards and policy activity related to interoperability. If you have specific questions or challenges you'd like to discuss, reach out to me at tonys@pocp.com.