IHE-Europe Connectathon online – lessons learned
The 2020 IHE-Europe Connectathon Week took place in early November, for the first time online, given the inevitable COVID-19 difficulties the world faced. Also this year the event will be online because we still need to be careful about spreading the contamination of the virus. IHE Netherlands speaks with the previous manager of the online Connectathon: Claudio Saccavini. What were the experiences, the lessons learned and how to go on this year?
The host country for the 2020 Connectathon Week, IHE-Belgium – together with principal sponsors and IHE-Europe/IHE Services – organized a week for vendors to test the interoperability of their products with other vendors, using real world-clinical scenarios following IHE Integration Profiles. Besides this Connectathon also two seminars took place in this week that brought together healthcare actors from all over the world: the Belgian Online eHealth Interoperability Day and the Belgian eHealth Plugathon.
Face-to-face versus online
It is quite a step from face-to-face to online. What is the biggest difference? Claudio Saccavini: “Yes, it is completely different. Normally, especially in Europe, it is not only a testing event. We also organize various educational and networking events during this week. Online events are not easy to organize, but this is not only related to the Connectathon. It is the common experience of people that online meetings/conferences are not the same as face-to-face ones. In this period it is simply the new format. But I believe at the end of the COVID-19 pandamic we probably will come back to ‘normal’ events.”
Saccavini continues: “We miss the social part of seeing each other in reality, which is very important. During this type of meetings, consider that normally you are in a Connectathon, we host country delegations including government delegates. It is very important to share (social) experiences together. Online, this is more difficult to organize.”
Another layout for testing
Also the testing part of the Connectathon Week has to be done in another way than normally would be done. According to Claudio Saccavini this is quite easy to organize: “Vendors are IT-engineers. They are used to working in a online world. Web tools are common for them. During the testing event we provide tools for conferencing, chatting and so on in order to increase the collaboration between all of them. This works very well.”
The only problem IHE Europe had during the IHE Europe Connectathon 2020 was due to the network. Claudio Saccavini explains: “Normally during a face to face Connectathon we use a local network for the testfloor. There is only internet connection to connect the groups of engineers with the test headquarters. This is an easy configuration. In future online Connectathons we are thinking of another approach, another layout. You know, in a face-to-face situation, 80 percent of the vendors are on the test floor. The idea is now not to realize a local floor only but also an online one. We have already done some tests during the last Connectathon and will continue with the tests this year in June. If these tests are succesful we might think of next steps.
The 2021 Connectathon will take place from 14 – 18 June. Despite the efforts made by IHE Czech (the host) and IHE-Europe to organize the event in the Czech Republic, it has turned out that the COVID-19 development unfortunately does not allow the planning of a safe face-to-face event. So it again will be an online version.
There are approximately 50 monitors trained in dedicated sessions every year. Totally independent monitors are to help on the testing floor and are objective in their decisions. Ultimately, they have to carry out testing checks that are a pass or a fail. Monitors are assigned to tests, based on their own competences and skill set. So ‘online’ must be a big chance for the monitors, or not? Saccavini: “From the monitor’s side in particular I think the experience was not so good. During a face-to-face Connectathon we have a different types of monitors. We have experienced ones and monitors that attend for the first time. A face-to-face testing event is very important for those monitors who do not yet have so much experience. They learn from the others who have been participating for years. This is hardly possible to realize for an online Connectathon. So this year we have decided to increase the educational part for monitors before the test event will take place. In order to give them the opportunity to have a good base of knowledge for the testing event.”
For vendors working with online monitors is not such a big problem. IHE-Europe uses a tool called Rocketchat to help them. But yes, also they miss an educational part. Normally they increase their knowledge during the week. It is hardly possible to share all kinds of experiences online”, Claudio Saccavini says.
During an online event there are no ‘real’ coffee moments, that are very important for socializing. Virtual coffee moments are of course also possible, but according to Saccavini you cannot compare them with real ones.
Above all, he says: “We miss the social events. A unique opportunity to move out from the floor and meet other people.”
So Saccavini already mentioned some lessons learned after the first online Connectathon Week. But he still wishes to add one more: “An online version is suitable. It also gives us the opportunity to organize other types of events. Every year we are not able to test all profiles. E.g. the number of vendors in Eye Care are not sufficient in Europe. Vendors can only succeed for a profile if a minimum of four vendors take part. So we can not do testing in this domain. Maybe it is an idea to organize an online Connectathon on a global level about a certain domain, as this would have a sufficient number of participants.”
Finally Claudio Saccavini says: “The Connectathon is a crucial event. We should not forget the importance of the pillars of this testing event. One of these pillars is that without a Connectathon we can not test and produce new profiles. Profiles that work in reality. Especially in a world that is confronted with COVID-19, this is extremely important to help healthcare on a higher level.
More information about the Connectathon Week 2020 and 2021