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Connectathons Help HL7 FHIR Users Move From the Theoretical to the Concrete

[fa icon="calendar"] Dec 18, 2023 1:00:29 PM / by Howard Anderson


Register Now for January Virtual FHIR Connectathon and Gain Perspective from a New Participant: the Value-Based Performance Reporting Use Case Co-Lead

Those interested in gaining a better understanding of how the HL7 Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resource (FHIR®) standard works – and helping to develop specification refinements – should consider attending the upcoming connectathon, which will be held online January 16-18, 2024.

“Connectathons can be an effective way for organizations to initiate or advance their FHIR capabilities,’ Viet Nguyen, MD, HL7 Da Vinci Project Technical Director and HL7 Chief Implementation Officer, says.

Nguyen notes that the numerous tracks within the connectathon event allows organizations to pick and choose which tracks they want to emphasize based on their regulatory or strategic needs.

First-time HL7 FHIR Connectathon participant Teresa Younkin, HL7 Value-Based Performance Reporting (VBPR) Project Co-Lead and Senior Consultant at Point-of-Care Partners, attended the September 2023 event. She says, “The value of the connectathons is to actually get to see the systems work and move from the theoretical to the concrete.”

According to Younkin, connectathons are an opportunity to bridge the gap between the technical and the business. It goes beyond just exchanging bits and bytes; instead, you can see in real time how the data could be ingested and utilized in an organization. Many reference implementations have simple interfaces to make computer code human readable. Having the ability to physically see how this data exchange impacts workflows opens cross functional dialogs, addressing communication gaps that traditionally exist between technical teams and business teams.

VBPR and the FHIR Connectathons

Balloting for the VBPR standard was completed in September, and ballot reconciliation is underway. After final review, the official standard for trial use, or STU, likely will be available in the first quarter of next year, Younkin says. Meanwhile, a reference implementation guide (IG) is now available for testing.

A large regional health system is already testing the IG with one large regional payer and is looking to test it with others. Of course, others can partner to test the standard at the next connectathon or on an ongoing basis.

Unlike fee-for-service medicine, a value-based contract ties payment for healthcare goods and services to predetermined terms that are based on clinical circumstances, patient outcomes, financial benchmarks and other specified measures of the appropriateness and effectiveness of the services rendered. Payers can use value-based contracts to better align their contracting structures with broader changes in the healthcare system.

“Standardization of payer/provider performance reporting for quality and risk contracts is crucial for health systems and other provider organizations to receive timely interim reports to track and manage their performance on value-based contracts during the term,” according to the VBPR project.

“Payer-generated value-based performance reports are crucial because payers are generally in the best position to be the arbiters in determining financial performance on risk contracts with health systems. Unfortunately, there is a lack of standardizations for reporting format, the process is usually resource intensive, not very scalable and data reconciliation process is complex.”

That’s why Da Vinci’s VBPR project is so important, Younkin says. “We are trying to standardize any value-based performance reports so that, for example, providers can check in to see how they are doing against their contracts on both financial and quality measures.”

And by participating in connectathons, providers, payers and vendors alike can help refine the VBPR user guide to help ensure automating the reporting process is efficient.

Testing Specifications

The purpose of an HL7 FHIR Connectathon is to help prove that a specification is complete and facilitate FHIR implementation guide maturity.

Connectathon participants come together several times a year to work alongside vendor peers, healthcare providers and administrators, as well as those who wrote the HL7 FHIR specifications. Participants use test tools to learn to implement the standard and validate their conformance to the specification and IGs.

If connectathon participants find that their code does not work, the FHIR specification documentation may, in some cases, be refined and improved during the event. As a result, connectathon testing with peer organizations is good for developers as well as for the HL7 FHIR standard.

Using the Same Language

“To listen to people discuss the challenges involved in what they were working on and hear it all in one place was very valuable,” Younkin says of her experience at the September Connectathon. “At the event, you could hear what a common definition was so everyone could use the same language and drive semantic interoperability.”

At each event, small groups work together to test applying the standard when exchanging data for a specific purpose. “If something fails, they work together to resolve the failure and test it again. It’s a very iterative process,” Younkin says.

Technical team members as well as others, such as directors of data analytics and CIOs, can benefit from attendance, she stresses. “By attending, I gained a better understanding of how the transactions go back and forth and what the data looks like, such as for prior authorization. It brings the theoretical to real life.”

Prepare to Attend the HL7 FHIR Connectathon

“Participating in a connectathon opens a door for organizations to further engage with the HL7 community in advancing and maturing the FHIR standard,” HL7’s Nguyen says.

“The connectathon planning process begins many weeks before the event itself. It allows participants to connect with others with whom they can test their FHIR capabilities,” he continued.

Nguyen encourages those who are interested to prepare in advance and register to attend the January event. In addition to testing the VBPR implementation guide, tentative plans call for participants to test guides for applying the FHIR healthcare data exchange standards for Burden Reduction (CRD, DTR and PAS IGs); Payer Data Exchange (PDex)/Formulary; Clinical Documentation Exchange (CDex); Risk Adjustment; Patient Cost Transparency (PCT); and Member Attribution Lists.

More Information and Register Today!

Register for the January event at: 

First-time Connectathon participants should view the mandatory FHIR Training for Beginners Newcomer Orientation. 

Details about previous HL7 FHIR Connectathons are available at

For more information on VBPR, visit the project’s Confluence page:

Topics: FHIR, Da Vinci, value based care, FHIR Accelerator, FHIR Connectathon, FHIR Implementation Guides, VBPR, Value-Based Performance Reporting

Howard Anderson

Written by Howard Anderson

Howard Anderson is a writer specializing in healthcare IT topics. He was the founding editor of Health Data Management as well as

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