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Looking Back on 20 Years of IHE: Collaboration with NIST

This year marks a major milestone for IHE: 20 years of promoting standards-based interoperability. As part of the anniversary celebration, IHE is asking participants to share their memories of the organization’s beginning and growth.

IHE and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have been working together for years to advance the common goal of interoperability in the healthcare space. “Both NIST and IHE have a common vision to provide the public seamless and secure information that is usable whenever and wherever needed – and specifically for the activities of IHE – access to health information,” says John J. Garguilo, a computer scientist and Group Lead of the Systems Interoperability Group, Software and Systems Division of the Information Technology Laboratory with NIST.

A Common Mission

Garguilo first heard of IHE when he joined the Information Technology Laboratory of NIST as a computer scientist. “I was tasked with leading and advancing the semantic and interoperability of medical devices program focused on information and data communication conformance and interoperability testing. My then group leader immediately recommended participation in both planning and technical committees,” he says. From there, he quickly became involved with the Patient Care Device Domain (IHE-PCD). He has spent the past 12 years as the lead medical device communication test tool developer and six years as an IHE-PCD Technical Committee co-chair.

The work done through the IHE and NIST partnership has directly benefited federal agencies, such as ONC and CMS. “Through the development and advancement of test methods and conformance tooling, based on well-recognized standards, and addressing prominent IHE Integration Profiles, use cases, healthcare scenarios and test cases, NIST’s health information technology frameworks have had a natural progression of healthcare testing in support of national goals of fellow government programs,” says Garguilo.

IHE and NIST Achievements

By working with IHE Domains and participating in IHE testing events, NIST has played an integral role in developing a number of primary test frameworks. “NIST has made available and continues to improve testing frameworks that validate to HL7 V2, XDS, and CDA specifications,” he says. “These frameworks are the cornerstone for major conformance and interoperability test events held by IHE and other prominent national and international certification and conformity assessment programs.”

The Future of IHE and NIST

IHE and NIST will continue to collaborate on developing rigorous testing methods and standards based profiles to improve interoperability in the healthcare space. “Collaboration is essential to connect the subject matter experts, which are a strength of IHE, with conformance and interoperability tooling architects and implementers, a strength of NIST,” says Garguilo. “In addition to continuing the advancement and application of rigorous test methods, a natural collaboration between IHE and NIST should continue to further automate implementation guides, IHE Integration Profiles, libraries of standard-based profiles, and tooling to ease the burden of producing new and advanced test cases, all based on prominent healthcare use cases.”  


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