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HL7 Working Group Meeting: A First-Time Attendee's Perspective

[fa icon="calendar"] Sep 19, 2016 9:01:05 AM / by Tim Hricik


HL7 WGM First Time Attendee Perspective 

A litte about me

My name is Tim Hricik and I am a consultant with Accenture. I have been with the firm since late 2011 and have been a member of the HL7 community since 2013.

In May, I had the opportunity to attend my first HL7 working group meeting (WGM) in Montreal. As I attempted to navigate the WGM, I was introduced to a fellow Accenture colleague and longtime HL7 leader, Ken McCaslin. Ken is the head of HL7’s Technical Steering Committee and kindly helped shepherd me through the agenda and activities of the WGM. He provided introductions, shared his past experiences, and gave general words of wisdom to help me get the most out of my own experience.

Subsequently, Ken asked if I would write an article that might serve as a guide for future first-time attendees. Wishing that I had had a little more information about the WGM before my first visit, I jumped at the opportunity to share my observations with others. So, for all those attending a WGM for the first time in the near future, here is a little bit about my experience and what you might expect.

What did I anticipate for the working group meeting?

I really had no idea what to expect for my first visit to an HL7 WGM, but I knew that this would likely be different from other types of conferences I had previously attended. My initial intention was to simply attend the Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR®) sessions and connect-a-thon in hopes of learning as much as I could about the emerging standard.

I knew the HL7 organization was actually more than just one standard, but I will admit I let myself get a bit pessimistic about what I would encounter:

  • Is this going to be the usual bunch of tech people laboring and debating over dry discussions of standards?
  • Am I going to be stuck attending lengthy, drawn out lectures, struggling to maintain interest and attention?
  • Will it be relevant to my interest areas and career development?
I am pleased to report that with the guidance of Ken and many of the new contacts I made, my apprehension quickly dissipated and allowed me to have a productive and, more importantly, enjoyable time.

What did I learn as a first-timer?

I learned so much at the WGM that it’s hard to narrow down specific points, but with a bit of time for reflection, there are three distinct aspects that have stuck with me:

  • The actual “work” entailed by a working group meeting, the wonderful members of the HL7 community, and all the fun that can be had while actually “working”!
  • For a long time I held an overly simplistic and superficial view that WGMs simply existed to produce standards. Yes, these meetings indeed focus on the HL7 mission of developing standards and enabling their adoption, but I learned that work groups do significant work toward managing the overall direction of HL7, sponsor innovative projects, and serve as stewards for the associated standards. This impressive scope of work could not be done if not for the outstanding contributions of the people in the HL7 community. They come from a variety of interesting backgrounds and all have a common passion to grow and enhance HL7’s mission of global health data interoperability.
  • Finally, I learned that, yes, while there is important work that needs to be done, the people of HL7 make sure to laugh and enjoy the fellowship with one another.

What helped?

There are a few things that will help you navigate the WGM, most of which can be found if you attend the first-time attendees’ presentation. This presentation provided a warm welcome to the conference. Here I received all the tangible materials needed to navigate the venue and learned how the sessions, blocks, and breaks work. More importantly, I got to meet all kinds of friendly faces who were well-versed in the operations of HL7 and the WGMs. The presenters shared their first WGM experiences and gave us the inside scoop on how to make the most of the conference.

An important artifact to take away from this presentation was the “First-Time Attendee” ribbon. Having this ribbon is a great ice-breaker for getting to know fellow newbies and experienced members alike. I recommend not being shy and joining in, as participation is encouraged and you will always be made to feel welcome. Everyone in the WGM was a first-time attendee at one point and fellow members go out of their way to make you feel part of the group.

If you have questions about lost session tickets or are wondering what those ribbons on some people’s name tags mean, don’t be afraid to approach a member with a red “STAFF” ribbon.

In addition to these social aspects, the breadth of educational sessions that are offered assure you will find several that either introduce you to interesting new topics or enhance your current understanding of others. Don’t be afraid to attend a session even if you know nothing of the topic. You may be pleasantly surprised.

 If you are considering attending an HL7 WGM for the first time, I highly recommend doing so and hope that reading about my experiences will help you get the most out of your time. I look forward to meeting you at future WGMs!

Topics: FHIR, hl7, hl7 community, interoperability

Tim Hricik

Written by Tim Hricik

Tim Hricik is a consultant with Accenture and has been a member of the HL7 community since 2013.