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September 25, 2019

Written by: Chrissy Richey

Imagine you’re seven years old, thirty-seven pounds, feeling nauseous..

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Informonster and Sparky the FHIR Dog Go To DevDays

Recently I had the pleasure of attending my second FHIR DevDays event, this year on the Microsoft campus in Redmond, WA. I was accompanied by a couple of my pals – our #Informonster and HL7’s #SparkyTheFHIRDog. We spent the week learning the latest about all things FHIR and tweeting our way through the conference: #FHIRDevDays.

For those unfamiliar, DevDays is a collaborative learning event for health IT professionals that HL7 International presents twice a year. Developers, architects, informaticists, and other health IT specialists gather to learn from the experts, and from each other. Participants spend several days immersed in an environment that sets aside competition and focuses on moving health interoperability forward through collaboration. As Clinical Architecture’s product manager for a couple of interoperability and FHIR-based products—and as a clinician who values improving healthcare!—I’d like to share a few highlights.

First, just like FHIR itself, DevDays is growing. The first DevDays five years ago was fewer than 20 people. Last year’s Boston attendance topped 380, with people representing 12 countries. This year, the main auditorium (capacity 574) became standing room only for the keynotes and especially for the group photo. Although final numbers aren’t out, a rough estimate would easily exceed 50% growth in a single year.

Next, the tracks are gaining both in depth and numbers. Last year, there were over 70 presentations. This year, there were at least 115; again, final numbers are pending. The tracks focused heavily on applied learning, with about 65 tutorial tracks plus over 20 “Let’s Build!” sessions where participants could potentially walk away with the beginnings of useful code. One of the benefits is the “Meet and Code” track, where any participant has the opportunity to sit elbow-to-elbow with FHIR experts, ask any question they like, and learn directly from the best.

Perennial favorite topics were plentiful: the Argonaut Project, the DaVinci Project, SMART on FHIR, HAPI FHIR, the SMART App Launch Framework, CDS Hooks, Blue Button 2.0 and FHIR, and many others.

Some of the newer FHIR initiatives and emerging ways of using FHIR have gained enough traction to merit presentations:

  • Consumer-directed data exchange, which was addressed both in tutorial tracks and in Steve Posnack’s keynote
  • FHIRcast for cross-application data synchronization
  • Inferno, ONC’s test suite for FHIR servers
  • Personal health device data on FHIR
  • Next-generation quality measurement with FHIR and CQL
  • OMOP Common Data Model
  • SMART Web Messaging, using HTML5 Web Messaging to enable tight UI integration between EHRs and embedded SMART apps

And of course, one must offer a brief look into more personal highlights and inspirations, which were abundant:

  • Hearing industry heavyweights like Steve Posnack and Micky Tripathi talk about current interoperability initiatives and FHIR accelerators, helping to make FHIR adoption faster and more mainstream.
  • Hearing thought leaders like Peter Lee share a vision of FHIR as a “first-class data type” that goes beyond healthcare and could be “for everything” in as short as 10 years, perhaps making what we’re doing even bigger than we’ve imagined.
  • Experiencing health interoperability’s history and its future through Ed Hammond’s keynote, where he reminded us that the problems healthcare was working on in 1990 still exist, and that “If [we]’re working on today’s problems, [we]’re out of date.” [Ed. note: Dr. Hammond is an informatics pioneer, is widely regarded as one of the Fathers of HL7, and is the faculty mentor for Breathe FHIR, the winning student project team at this year’s DevDays.]
  • Being deeply impressed by the ingenuity of Judy Gichoya, an interventional radiologist and global health specialist, whose project used only two FHIR resources and one week of one developer’s time to implement an imaging system that is still in use today. She reminds us not to create “systems that don’t help us take care of patients and are a nightmare to maintain” as well as emphasizing the value of “local solutions for local problems”.
  • Feeling motivated by Greg Simon of the Biden Cancer Initiative, who made very personal how critical data accessibility is to enable high quality healthcare. He challenged us all to “create a system that is incapable of hoarding data.”
  • Being wowed by Dana Lewis and how she and a small group of Type-I diabetes patients (who are now officially open-source innovators!) collaborated to build an artificial pancreas called #OpenAPS using FHIR, among other technologies. This one made me want to stand up and shout “Yes!”.

Lastly, I’d be remiss not to acknowledge the exceptional pacific northwest scenery and weather – wow! There were blue skies and temperatures in the mid-80’s every day. One of my rideshare drivers said, “Yeah, this is the time of year people get suckered into moving here, and then from November to April they wonder what they were thinking!”

Although the red-eye return flight home did me in for a day, it was more than worth it to experience this gathering of FHIR experts, evangelists, and adopters. Maybe next year I’ll see you there.