Work With Healthcare IT Standards, Don’t Work Around Them

Healthcare Interoperability & Standards

Work With Healthcare IT Standards, Don’t Work Around Them

I started this as a response to a comment on my recent LinkedIn post about joining the HL7 Canada Council. But I’m apparently too verbose for LinkedIn, so we’re here instead.

If you’re interested in getting involved in healthcareIT standards, don’t hesitate. Many people think of IT standards as something that is static or “finished” or doesn’t affect you. As anyone who’s tried to find a USB-A to USB-C adapter knows, IT standards keep moving forward, trying to predict and adapt to user needs. Without enough voices in the room, you end up with a Lightning connector–meets one vendor’s use case perfectly, but makes life hard on everyone else. Healthcare IT standards are no different.

I was talking with the general manager of a small healthcare IT vendor recently, and he discussed his development lead’s realization that HIT standards are not something that are done to you, that they don’t come from on-high, carved in stone. The dev lead had come around to the observation that he was as knowledgeable in the field as those writing the standard, and he could contribute and help come up with a spec they could work with, rather than work around.

All the major healthcare IT professional societies and standards development organizations are looking for people to get involved, with whatever skills you bring to the table. Someone with a clinical or implementation background brings knowledge of the real-world uses and delivery challenges; someone with product management experience can help evaluate whether a standard will see vendor uptake; a developer can help craft a specification that is clear to implement. Regulatory, legal, provider organizations, payers, and government — “even” patients — bring valuable perspectives to the table. And all the organizations recognize that the majority of their members are participating off the side of their desk, and will take whatever time and effort you can spare.

Right now, it’s easier to get involved with healthcare IT standards than ever. Historically, most groups used a mix of in-person and teleconferences to do their work; but, thanks to COVID, everyone has moved their meetings online. The cost (time and dollars) of participating has never been lower. (Speaking of dollars, most HIT organizations allow participation of non-members or have entirely reasonable membership fees, and even lower if you qualify for a special membership class, such as a student or academic.) HL7 even has an active international online community at that lets you join in the conversations at any time.

So, want to help set the direction of healthcare IT? Reach out to HL7 (publisher of FHIR), National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) (publisher of the DICOM standard), IHE International, SNOMED International, LOINC, Society for Imaging Informatics in Medicine (SIIM), HIMSS, Radiological Society of North America (RSNA), American College of Radiology, Joint Initiative Council, the various organizations’ local branch, or one of the many other international standards development organizations, and get involved.

After all, wouldn’t you rather work with a standard (or standards development organization) than figure out how to work around it?

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