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Derek Ritz, InfoCentral Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise (IHE) Community Leader

Derek Ritz

Stepping into the Spotlight

Derek Ritz is a trusted advisor to global public sector and private sector clients regarding strategy, digital health enterprise architecture, e-health standards, and national-scale digital health infrastructure implementation and adoption. He currently serves as leader of the Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise (IHE) community, an online collaboration space where health care professionals and the health information industry collaborate to improve the way health care technologies and systems share information. IHE is focused on taking digital health interoperability to scale while mitigating the inherent risks associated with such efforts.

quotation markIHE profiles represent re-usable digital health “building blocks” that can be assembled to support guideline-based care workflows. Digital health products that are conformance-tested at IHE’s annual Connectathon events will integrate with other conformant solutions, and that’s an important and valuable thing that needs to be more widely adopted in Canada.

Ritz is a member of the ITI technical committee and was a co-author of the Care Services Discovery (CSD) profile. He is also involved as a community member and leader in the OpenHIE initiative, an open source, standards-based e-health infrastructure focused on the health needs in developing countries.

Infoway took the opportunity to chat with Ritz about his role in the IHE community and hear his thoughts on how it will make a difference in improving health outcomes across Canada.

Why do you believe in digital health?

In addition to my work here in Canada, I have had an opportunity to be involved with digital health projects in over a dozen low-and middle-income countries (LMICs). Many LMICs are resource-constrained; there aren’t enough nurses, care facilities, or medicines, among much else. In low-resource settings, even rudimentary digital health solutions supporting basic care coordination workflows can have a fundamental impact on health outcomes.

For example, I’ve worked on projects in Rwanda, Ethiopia, South Africa and Namibia funded by the PEPFAR programme, the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. Establishing interoperability between a country’s HIV programme and their maternal care programme ensures we put every HIV+ pregnant woman on a specialized protocol which reduces the likelihood of the child being born HIV+ from 45% to 2% — a potentially life-changing outcome. Such impacts really underscore, for me, the important role digital health can play in gathering the necessary data to inform and support evidence-based care delivery.

Why should people care about the IHE community?

IHE Canada LogoUnlike ISO or HL7, IHE is not a standards development organization; rather, it is a digital health standards profiling organization. IHE profiles operationalize interoperability. They describe, in an implementable and conformance-testable way, how a portfolio of underlying base standards are collectively employed to execute health workflows. IHE profiles represent re-usable digital health “building blocks” that can be assembled to support guideline-based care workflows. Digital health products that are conformance-tested at IHE’s annual Connectathon events will integrate with other conformant solutions, and that’s an important and valuable thing that needs to be more widely adopted in Canada.

How do members of the IHE community participate and make a difference to digital health in Canada?

IHE Canada members include health informatics engineers who are helping develop and update IHE Profiles, software developers who are coding innovative new products that will integrate into existing digital health ecosystems, and digital health implementers who are architecting and deploying the applications that support care continuity across our healthcare delivery networks. Many IHE Canada members also participate in the base standards communities that underly IHE profiles. Nonetheless, it could be argued that the focus on taking digital health to scale delivers the biggest impact for Canadians.

What are the long-term goals of the IHE community?

IHE is involved in important new initiatives, in partnership with the HL7 FHIR community, that are focused on helping to develop the implementable artefacts that will enable FHIR-based profiles to go to scale in Canada. In the long term, IHE Canada wants to help establish a centre of excellence within Infoway focused on:

  • Maintaining the portfolio of IHE profiles that have been contextualized for implementation in Canada.
  • Supporting an interoperability "sandbox" that helps vendors prepare their software solutions and devices for conformity testing against Canadian digital health specifications.
  • A conformity testing service that can “certify” interoperable products for the Canadian marketplace.

What are the 2019-20 goals for the IHE community?

Work is presently underway within IHE’s technical committees to develop FHIR-based profiles related to patient ID management and computable care guidelines. Upcoming work will also be undertaken to profile the FHIR-based International Patient Summary implementation guide developed by HL7. A key 2019-20 goal for the IHE Canada community is to collaborate with the team working on Canada’s CA-Core FHIR baseline, ensuring that IHE Profiles are well leveraged within that effort and that, overall, Canada’s FHIR baseline is a conformance-testable specification.

What is a fun fact about yourself?

If I wasn’t a Health Informatics Professional, I’d want to be a documentary filmmaker. A life-goal is to complete a half-finished documentary movie about my grandfather’s exploits as a member of the Canadian Corps in WWI.

Get involved!

Connect with Derek Ritz on InfoCentral or LinkedIn.

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