2014 Connectathon the first to include dentistry
Article Thumbnail ImageJanuary 15, 2013 -- As the dental industry moves steadily into the digital age, the issue of multivendor interoperability becomes increasingly important. To help vendors and practitioners make a smooth transition, the ADA is promoting participation in the 2014 Connectathon, the healthcare IT industry's only large-scale interoperability testing event.

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Developed and sponsored by the Health Information Management Systems Society (HIMSS), the Radiological Society of North America, and the American College of Cardiology, the Connectathon is the healthcare information technology (IT) industry's only large-scale interoperability testing event. First held in 1999 in Chicago, the weeklong Connectathons are now held annually in Asia, Europe, and North America.

During a Connectathon, systems exchange information with complementary systems from multiple vendors, performing all the transactions required for the roles they have selected in support of defined clinical use cases, called IHE profiles. These profiles then provide definitions of how standards can be implemented to meet specific clinical needs.

“It is all about providing best-quality care for our patients, and interoperability can really enhance this.”
— Jonathan Knapp, DMD, chairman, ADA
     Council on Dental Practice

"The Connectathon came about as a result of the development of the IHE as a standards organization," said Jim St. Clair, senior director of interoperability and standards for HIMSS. "It was established to provide vendors who were implementing IHE profiles to demonstrate and validate that they had implemented the profiles successfully in their health IT and imaging products and integrated them."

Now dentistry has joined a growing list of healthcare domains preparing for the transition from paper records to electronic health records (EHRs), according to the ADA, which is partnering with the IHE to help dental vendors and practitioners participate in the Connectathons beginning in 2014. The IHE Dental Domain has been established as a working group to develop profiles and related technical documentation for this digital systems integration.

The goal is for dentists to have the ability to exchange diagnostic digital dental images and patient data security with other healthcare entities no matter the type of software or systems, the ADA noted.

"The ADA is the accredited ANSI [American National Standards Institute] standards developer for informatics, so this is a logical extension," said Jonathan Knapp, DMD, chairman of the ADA Council on Dental Practice. "This is a great way to involve the vendors, get them and the practitioners excited about the possibilities, and address a need that is out there. It is all about providing best-quality care for our patients, and interoperability can really enhance this."

The first Connectathon to include the dental domain will take place on January 14, 2014, in Chicago. Following that event, an interoperability demonstration is planned for the 2014 ADA Annual Session in San Antonio, where dental practitioners will be able to exchange images in a real-world setting.

"This is an opportunity for vendors to get involved with the dental domain and join the IHE, which is a free endeavor," St. Clair said. "They can then become involved with developing standards for dental IT interoperability. After that they can sign up for the Connectathon and demonstrate that they have implemented those standards in their respective systems."

Vendors are also encouraged to attend the 2013 Connectathon, which takes place January 28 to February 2 at the Hyatt Regency in Chicago.

"Vendors are welcome to attend this year to learn about IHE interoperability and how their products can potentially fit," St. Clair said. "They can observe how other, similar products are participating in the process."

So far nearly a dozen companies from the dental industry have expressed interest in the Connectathon and related standards development, Dr. Knapp noted.

"We think the IHE certification and the tools they will develop will be useful to both the vendors and the providers," he said. "As a vendor, being able to say you went through the Connectathon process and achieved this certification could be a selling point."

For more information about the IHE dental domain or to register to participate in the IHE Connectathon, contact Paul Bralower, manager of the ADA department of standards.