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Notes from the HL7 WGM in Phoenix

Publication date: May 08, 2008

HL7 Working Group Meetings (WGM) are held three times a year and aim to support the development process of the HL7 standards. The HL7 WGM of May 2008 took place in Phoenix (Arizona, USA). This column contains some generic comments about WGMs in general as well as some personal observations related to the highlights of the Phoenix WGM.

It is quite hard to imagine what activities take place at a WGM if you've never been there. A full week of meetings: a mixture of hard work in committees, networking events (i.e. party time), cookie breaks in the afternoon, sitting in the hotel pool, and tutorials. If you wanted to you could spent the entire week (from dusk to well after dawn) in meetings. Kai heitmann, one of the board members, suggested that soon we'd be having meetings that start at 05:30 - which was a joke, although most European participants would probably not find that time problematic given their jetlag.

If you've never been to a WGM (or: if you were at the Phoenix WGM) the following video shows some of its highlights:

This WGM I presented two tutorials and took part in meetings of 8 different groups. One visit was a very short one: the topic under discussion differed from the one expected so I left within a couple of minutes. The most notable events were:

  • The Java SIG met on monday, where after some discussion a motion was passed to change the name to "RIM Application Architecture" (acronym: RIMBAA). Its current scope will be broadened and hopefully the paperwork can be finalized by thye next WGM in Vancouver. I've written before about RIM based application architecures. We need to promote the message that the RIM is much more than just a model for the exchange of data: it can be (and is) used as a database model, as a model for application (business level) objects, or as the starting point for the generation of user interfaces.
  • The Marketing Council is working on a set of standardized presentations that provide a brief intruction into either HL7 (as a whole) or one of its standards. The discussion around their contents again showed me how difficult it is to create presentations that are truly of a global nature. All of us are most familiar with that which happens in our own context; only by combining the views of people with different backgrounds can one succeed in the creation of truly international presentations.
  • The HL7 E-learning course currently covers both HL7 version 2 as well as HL7 version 3. The e-learning course is currently being piloted with 92 participants from 6 different countries accross the globe. On average the trainees spent 5 to 10 hours a week on this 10-week course .. that's a serious investment in terms of time and effort. The e-learning course will be repeated; the training may be split into a HL7 v2 and a HL7 v3 specific part. The initial version of this e-learning course was created by HL7 Argentina.

The next WGM is in Vancouver (Canada). It will be interesting to see if the number of US participants will be lower than that of meetings in the US, given that some employers won't give permission if a meetings takes place outside of the US - even if as in this case the meeting is just a short trip from the US border. However: the number of Canadians will probably be higher; also because of their use of HL7 v3.

WGMs are never boring - and my to-do list aways seems to increase in size in a significant way at a WGM.


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Ringholm bv is a group of European experts in the field of messaging standards and systems integration in healthcare IT. We provide the industry's most advanced training courses and consulting on healthcare information exchange standards.
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