What is Conformance Testing and how does it relate to Interoperability?

As part of our ongoing efforts to streamline implementation of interoperability standards, AEGIS has worked with several Standards Development Organizations (SDOs) and Health Information Exchanges that have either piloted or launched Conformance or Compliance Testing Programs. These Programs help healthcare IT developers speed time to market by providing a cost-effective platform for ongoing, iterative testing of conformance and interoperability with standards and specifications. These program helps get highly interoperable products to market quickly and cost-effectively by providing a robust environment for continuous 24/7/365 testing.

The Office of Interoperability and Standards (OIS), a division within the HHS Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC), provides the leadership and direction that supports the secure and seamless exchange of health information in compliance with the national health IT agenda. It was noted in a recent meeting with ONC that the AEGIS DIL is, “the only tool in industry performing true interoperability and conformance testing of healthcare standards.”  The DIL helps automate and execute test cases created by SDOs, providing an easy-to-use system for performing conformance and interoperability tests against published SDOs specifications, standards, and profiles, including templates and implementation guides.

Entire SDO communities will benefit from this shared testing service, which can eventually be used to identify test cases that are sufficiently mature to become the basis for a certification or accreditation program. Participating in these program takes the burden off of vendors to validate technical interoperability and offers them a major market differentiator. This effort also builds upon and accelerates consensus toward national standards, EHR certification criteria, and testing procedures for Meaningful Use Stage 2 and beyond.

So – Why is Conformance Testing Important?

  • #1: Products from different vendors that have been tested for conformance to the same standards have a higher likelihood of interoperability.
  • #2: Different vendors can independently implement standards with higher assurance of product interoperability.
  • #3: Customers can buy products that will interoperate with previously purchased equipment from different vendors.

 With that said – Conformance and Interoperability Testing Are Complementary

  • The ultimate objective is for independent implementations of the same standard to interoperate.
  • Conformance testing improves success of interoperability initiatives, while interoperability testing confirms at a user level that interoperability has been achieved.
  • Conformance needs to be achieved first and should not be compromised during interoperability testing. Without conformance, two implementations can be made to interoperate by destroying interoperation with all other systems.
  • In the past, under intense pressure to get products to market, many vendors adopted a model of “just enough” conformance and interoperability testing. This style of testing typically takes place late in development and focuses on the “happy path” of expected behavior, often requiring a resource-intensive “Connectathon” environment.
  • But in today’s complex healthcare IT environments, the typical “one and done” approach isn’t good enough. Testing that goes beyond two systems to include an entire ecosystem, where any of the integrated parts can change at any time, requires a testing platform available for ongoing, iterative testing throughout development, including full requirements-based testing and negative testing.

If you’re interested in learning more about AEGIS’ Conformance Testing Programs, please contact Ellen Wyly at ellen.wyly@aegis.net.

About Barry Dickman

Mr. Dickman is an accomplished Executive Consultant with 25+ years as an accomplished industry thought leader with experience in Health Information Technology, Program & Project Management Support, Standards & Interoperability, Enterprise Architecture, Business Development, Strategic/Business Planning, Client Relationship Building, Acquisition Management, Software Development and Requirements Management. He is a hands-on cross-functional leader who energizes and managed the successful delivery of consulting services and information technology solutions to the Federal and commercial markets. Mr. Dickman is responsible for tactical implementation and quality assurance of solutions and services. He supports various activities and communities of interest with senior-level consulting services with the Department of Defense (DoD), Defense Health Agency (DHA), Veterans Affairs (VA) and Health & Human Services (HHS) on health information technology initiatives, including the electronic health record and health information exchange. He helps to ensure that projects & staff adhere to a process improvement approaches embodying the AEGIS CMMI-appraised process methodology ultimately providing clients with the essential elements of effective processes that improve their performance. As an effective communicator and leader, Mr. Dickman consistently demonstrates his ability to institute and carry out initiatives that drive positive change, improve efficiency and increased profitability. He brings extensive experience, functional knowledge and management skills to all consulting assignments. Prior to joining AEGIS, Mr. Dickman held senior level positions helping to create business solutions that help meet the healthcare industry's top challenges. Mr. Dickman has authored numerous papers, articles, newsletters and blogs. He graduated from the University of Maryland holds a Masters in Health Services Administration Masters of Health Services Administration from The George Washington University, School of Business and Public Management. Mr. Dickman currently serves at the President of the Health Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) – National Capital Area (NCA) Chapter.

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