Doing Less, but Better
Imagine you’re struggling in a long race – maybe an ultra-marathon over a winding, hilly course. You’ve been running for many hours, and you’re tired, sore and hungry. You’re running up a hill, hoping the end will soon be in sight. But when you get to the top, you only see a turn, not a finish. And after that turn – oh, no! – another hill. We’ve had that feeling during the long pandemic, and, for some of us, we’ve had that feeling even longer with respect to tooling at HL7. We’ve covered a lot of ground, and climbed a lot of hills, and we can feel the end should be in sight very soon. But we’re still running.
Fortunately, we have a team of supporters handing out Gatorade, clapping and cheering us on, and we’ve got our fellow runners pulling us along. And so it is with the HL7 community. We ask a lot of you to help us move forward, with support and understanding; sometimes contributing your valuable time to help us with development or testing, or to struggle patiently with change and the unexpected discoveries of new technology rollouts. While we don’t see that finish line yet, we see plenty of blue skies and greener fields beyond. We won’t always make it on the podium, and sometimes we stumble along the way. But the important thing is to keep moving forward and getting better.
The View from Above
We may not always seem to be progressing very fast, but we’ve really come a long way in the last few years thanks to the important contributions of many of you as well as the ongoing generous support of the US Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC), which has funded many of our retooling efforts. To list a few prominent examples:
- The HL7 community adapted rapidly to remote work – in large part because we had been doing that all along. However, we’re now uniformly using the Zoom platform rather than conference calls. We’re also using chat.fhir.org to interact far more effectively than we could with just listservs. That being said, we still miss in person WGMs.
- We’ve moved from our old Wiki to Confluence and have used its power as a central hub for our work group and project collaborations.
- While we haven’t full migrated to JIRA, we’re in the final stages of moving the last products to JIRA tracking and in the home stretch of migrating the old STU Comment website page and introducing JIIRA Balloting in 2021.
- We’ve successfully introduced terminology.hl7.org (THO), managed through Unified Terminology Governance (UTG) which is now a centralized repository for all HL7 terminology that can be directly accessed by applications. This is a great leap forward from the past where terminologies were buried in specifications. Of course, we still have some terminologies in previously released specifications, but we now have a robust tooling infrastructure that will support our future and rapidly evolving needs.
- We’ve continued to improve, refactor and expand the utility of the IG Publisher, which is now being used for C-CDA, UTG and even publication from other organizations like IHE.
- We still have some content to move from GForge, but we’ve adopted GitHub for storing code.
- We’ve rolled out the new project proposal process in Confluence and are on track to move to Jira-based workflow for the PSS early in 2021. We expect to use the same JIRA workflow approach for other HL7 forms, putting the old habit of email attachments behind us.
- We’ve improved but are still refining our tools for document storage and management.
- We have a new FHIR registry which has matured enough to play a much larger role in helping to make it easier to uncover prior art and avoid duplicating efforts across projects.
Perhaps most important of all, we’ve made significant progress in setting up the HL7 Essentials Confluence page to make it easier to find just what you need to know. This has been invaluable to both old-timers and new Accelerators and should be a boon as we welcome a new class of co-chairs in January.
Spreading the Good Word
We recognize that it can be hard to keep up and that we can always do a better job communicating. We now have a Leadership Announcements page in Confluence that will be a log for each of these major tooling, process and policy announcements as a chronological stream. We also continue to rely on confluence.hl7.org as our launch pad for most Confluence sites, significant updates, and education materials.
I’m also aware that most of you won’t even read this far due to so many commitments. So, I hope those of you who do won’t mind the repetition. As we continue to move ahead, we’re going to need to use multiple channels to try to get you the information you need as succinctly as possible and repeat our key messages over and over again to reach everyone (something that we’ve also grown accustomed to during the pandemic).
We ask a lot of the HL7 community, and we know you already give us so much. I do hope you’ll take a look at some of the links in this update and help us make the HL7 experience so much better.
The Road Ahead
It’s been a long journey, and while the finish line for some of these initiatives really may be just around the next turn, we also know that there are additional races on the horizon. A key focus for 2021 will be on replacing our core business systems for managing the association and for upgrading the rest of our ballot-related systems.
In conclusion, finishing some things doesn’t mean we can all retire with a good book and a cocktail. There’s still a lot of work and change ahead, which will take a toll on many of you. But maybe, once we really do cross one or more of those finish lines, we’ll all get a participation ribbon as HL7 Retooling survivors. And, I expect some of you will indeed be champions.
See you in the post-race refreshment tent – hopefully by January 2022.