The Standard

The Official Blog of Health Level Seven® International


CTO Tooling Update: In Medias Res

[fa icon="calendar"] Dec 17, 2018 2:26:12 PM / by Wayne Kubick

Update from the CTO Wayne Kubick

Every good story has a beginning, middle and end. First, we get hooked on the opening, which drives us ultimately towards a conclusion, but the real time and effort comes along the way.  While the middle is where most things happen, we can sometimes feel like we’re in a holding pattern there – until something tangible finally happens that directly affects what we do. 

This rings true with HL7’s transition to our new collaboration tooling environment built on Confluence and JIRA. The good thing is that we’re making steady progress on multiple fronts, with many more work groups in Confluence and the killer apps of JIRA Ballot and Unified Terminology Governance (UTG) becoming more palpable. On the other hand, we’re clearly still en route, perhaps able to imagine but not yet actually taste the promised rewards. This is understandable, since the mission of HL7 is the creation of standards, not the creation of tooling to help us achieve that. However, it’s tooling that directly affects us in the ways we develop HL7 standards.


Probably the single biggest advance in our Confluence rollout was the arrival of our new Applications Manager, Josh Procious, whom many of you may have met at the Baltimore Working Group Meeting.  Josh has been working with individual work groups to get them started in the new environment to help make the transition relatively seamless. As those of you who’ve made the leap already know, Confluence is a breeze once you go all in, but it really helps to have a coach get you started. Josh continues to improve the standard templates, release new tips and techniques webinars as well as expand help guidance on a regular basis. A simplified account registration process is now available, and some of the new features currently being evaluated are expanded group authoring of documents and use of interactive polling to facilitate decision making.

Now that work groups are becoming more comfortable with Confluence, we can seize the opportunity to take a fresh look at how we can organize, present and manage essential information. Consider this analogous to packing up and moving to a new home. Even if the new home is bigger than the last, we don’t want to move the things we really don’t need anymore, and we want to separate the things we need right away from those that can be packed away out of sight, out of mind (or better yet, out to the trash heap in some cases). Over the coming year, in piecemeal fashion, the Technical Steering Committee (TSC) will be trying to pinpoint the most essential information for work groups and make that critical information about how to effectively utilize HL7 processes easily accessible in Confluence, just a few clicks away. 

As more projects begin using the new online Confluence Project Scope Statement (PSS), we expect to look to adapt other necessary forms to Confluence to make it quicker and easier to find what you need, and help you navigate through HL7 with much less effort and frustration.  HL7 headquarters is already working on this, and we’re looking forward to moving beyond start-up and migration and focusing instead on the world of new opportunities that are possible in a more advanced collaboration tooling environment.



JIRA use is also on the rise. Initial unit testing of the new JIRA-based ballot system identified the usual expected issues, but bug fixes had to be suspended for a while due to the higher priority of completing the HL7 Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR®) Release 4 ballot. At the time of this writing, testing is expected to recommence before end of 2018 and we’re still looking for the first set of ballots to commence in early 2019. 

Ted Klein’s JIRA-based UTG prototype is also expected to be ready for initial pilot testing in early 2019. We hope to replace the current harmonization process using UTG later in the year.

As HL7 work groups become more comfortable with JIRA and the advantages of its close integration to Confluence, we expect to see most work groups migrating to JIRA instead of Tracker during 2019.


Quo Vadis?

While these ongoing projects continue their way through the middle of things, we’re also embarking on a new series of projects to tackle the more challenging need to improve the tooling we use for standards development, with the help of ongoing funding support from the US Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC).  The most prominent of these projects are:

  • Re-engineering the FHIR implementation guide publishing tooling so it can be run by operations with minimal manual intervention and improved integration with the FHIR registry. Ideally, we hope to leverage this work to improve publishing tools for other standards as well.
  • Replacing multiple feedback systems (Help Desk, DSTU) with JIRA
  • Replacing the HL7 Ballot Desktop with a new cloud-based system

    I’ll be providing more details on these and other tooling initiatives in the coming months.  And remember to check here for more tooling updates and details. 


Topics: FHIR, HL7, health IT, news, tooling, JIRA, Confluence

Wayne Kubick

Written by Wayne Kubick

Wayne Kubick is the Chief Technology Officer of Health Level Seven International

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