OpenHIE Blog


Guest Contributor: Daniel Futerman, Jembi Health Systems

Jembi Health Systems is an African non-profit organization with extensive experience in the fields of interoperability, digital health, and health system strengthening. As an OpenHIE partner organization, Jembi contributes a broad set of technical and operational skills across various communities in the OpenHIE initiative; covering design, development, technical architecture, community management, and development of reference technologies.

Meeting People Where They Are

Jembi believes that robust health systems and sharing information will advance global health. This organization is rooted in Africa and their ultimate goal is better healthcare for all people. 

The following are some core strategies toward their goal:

  • Strengthening health systems with local people for their own needs
  • Investing in and developing systems that are within reach of low-income countries
  • Helping to build individual capabilities to support their own solutions

At the centre Jembi’s work is providing value to end-users. Once there is a clear value to their work-lives, users embrace new technology. If health practitioners see the benefits, this organization captures richer and more useful data – helping end-users, funders, and ministries. In the end, this serves Jembi’s shared goal of better health outcomes for all people.

Jembi and OpenHIE

Our work in interoperability and health information exchange began with involvement in the Rwanda Health Enterprise Architecture (RHEA) project and development of the Rwanda Health Information Exchange (RHIE), one of the first implementations of the OpenHIE Architecture

Jembi has developed several OpenHIE Interoperability Layer (IOL) and Shared Health Record (SHR) reference technologies including the OpenHIM and OpenSHR, as well as continued development of emerging tools such as Instant OpenHIE, which aims to create a deployable, preconfigured reference version of the OpenHIE architecture, allowing users to illustrate how interoperability can work to solve real world use cases and health challenges.

Jembi has been a longstanding advocate for OpenHIE, and currently leads the joint IOL / SHR community, supports the OpenHIE Implementers Network community, and works with the architecture, devops and leads communities to help move the OpenHIE roadmap and vision forward.

Jembi has been working with the Health Financing towards UHC community to support documentation of workflows and architecture and the integration of Health Financing into the OpenHIE architecture, the OpenHIE Academy community to support the development of OpenHIE training curriculums and materials, and has supported the coordination and planning of the OpenHIE Community Meetings and conducting the Hackonnect-a-thon.

Rooted in Africa

In South Africa, Jembi has been part of the African Health Information Exchange (AHIE) consortium, developed over the past three years in partnership with UCT-CIDER and other organisations, supporting the development and national scale-up of the South African unique health identifier, developed and matured interoperability solutions to promote timely integration of data from existing HIV clinical systems such as TIER. Net and laboratory information systems, and supporting development of a consolidated data environment for all health data, including for HIV and TB services.

In Mozambique, Jembi partners with the Universidade Eduardo Mondlane (UEM) and the national MoH to strengthen local capacity in the HIS and eHealth, in partnerships that span the public, private and academic sectors, through over 20 active projects, offices and a living lab in Maputo.

Jembi also works regionally in countries such as Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Cameroon, Rwanda, South Sudan and Lesotho providing technical assistance and contributing to improving healthcare services and health systems by developing and implementing appropriate, custom HIS and Health Information Exchange services to address country needs.

Is your team interested in becoming an OpenHIE Partner Organization? Check out our partnership policy to see our current partners, our expectations, and how to get started!

During the OpenHIE 2019 Community Meeting in Ethiopia, “The Academy” was offered as “in person” courses that provided participants with the essential history, concepts, and competencies to understand the role of OpenHIE as a health information exchange and how to utilize the architecture to enhance data for decision making at all levels of the health system. These courses were well-received at the community meeting, so our community management, leadership, and Academy subcommunity team went to work to figure out a way to offer this style of continuing education beyond one week a year – and now we are excited to launch the online e-learning tool to address information gaps about OpenHIE, the architecture, health information exchange topics, and MORE! We call this tool, the Academy.

The Academy is now available with 2 full courses of content, ready for users to sign in with their OpenHIE ID (also Discourse or Wiki credentials) and begin moving through the modules. The courses include videos (with English closed captioning), additional resources on topics, and evaluations. Upon completing the course and passing the quiz by at least 80%, users will receive a personalized certificate of completion on the course as a printable and downloadable PDF.

Follow this link to begin your journey with the academy by logging in and starting your first course!

Courses are continuing to be created by the Academy Community on the following topics:

  • Introduction to HIE and OpenHIE: Foundations of Health Information Exchange – Available Now
  • Overview of the OpenHIE Architecture: Overview of Architecture Components – Available Now
  • Registries and Introduction to Workflows
  • Terminologies and Data Standards for Health Information Exchange
  • HIE and Leadership
  • Interoperability

Additional topics and advanced courses are in the works for further out in the future, being planned and later created by members of the community. A special THANK YOU to community members who have participated in the Academy subcommunity to help get OpenHIE Academy launched and document courses to help elevate knowledge around health information exchange: Dr. Araya Abrha, Stella Badmus, Michelle Cox, Dr. Terry Cullen, Kasey Cummins, April Currier, Daniel Futerman, Tesfit Gebremeskel, Peter Imrie, Haftamu Kebede, Sri Maurya Kummamuru, Jodi Lis, Clint Rusk, Jennifer Shivers, Jamie Thomas, and Samson Yohannes.

Who will you share these courses with? What are some courses you would like to see? Have ideas on future topics that should be covered? Be sure to share your thoughts with us on Discourse!


After consulting with several organizations and individuals deeply involved with OpenHIE, we’ve made the difficult decision to postpone the 2020 OpenHIE Community Meeting in Malawi due to numerous concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic and related travel circumstances. This year’s event was scheduled to be held in October 2020 but taking into consideration the safety and health of the Lilongwe community, the host country, and our entire dedicated community, we are postponing the event until 2021.

Malawi participated in a competitive process to hold this year’s event and remains excited to host the 2021 Community Meeting. As the situation with the pandemic becomes clearer, we look forward to continuing the planning of a face-to-face meeting with the Malawi team. Community events are rewarding and we do great things whenever we come together. With this spirit in mind, we are looking at ways of bringing aspects of OpenHIE Community Meetings into virtual community events over the next year in order to stay connected and support the great work people are doing to advance health information exchange.

As we finalize details around virtual events and offerings, we will make sure to keep you posted on Discourse and Twitter.

Please let us know what type of virtual meeting or training you would like to see this year in place of our usual Community Meeting.

Our deepest sympathies go out to all of those around the world affected by this virus. Now more than ever, it has become apparent how connected we truly are and driven home the importance of health care systems and infrastructure. We are in this together. As always, thank you for your support and we look forward to seeing you all in Malawi in 2021! #WeAreOHIE

Further updates around the OpenHIE Community Meeting will be found on our website at


By: Dr. Araya Abrha Medhanyie, Benti Ejeta, Carl Fourie, Dana Acciavatti, Daniel Futerman, Jamie Thomas, Jennifer Shivers, Paul Biondich

In November of 2019, the OpenHIE community held its second Community Meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  The meeting occurred from November 4-8th and was held at the Hyatt Regency.  With over 220 participants from 25 countries and representing 71 organizations this year’s meeting was quite an experience for our emerging community of practice. Established in 2013, OpenHIE is a community of practice focused on using standards to provide better health information exchange in the digital age.  This year’s Community Meeting was particularly exciting because planning for the event involved incorporating community member requests shared during our inaugural event held in Tanzania in 2018.

Click here to read more about the 2018 OpenHIE Community Meeting.

What’s the value of OpenHIE Community Meetings?

Participants of the OpenHIE community of practice are dedicated to improving the health of the underserved through open and collaborative, development and support of country driven, large scale health information sharing architectures. Thus we;

  • enable large scale health information interoperability
  • offer freely available standards-based approaches and reference technologies
  • support each other’s needs through peer technical assistance communities


OpenHIE Community Meetings provide an opportunity for government officials, implementers, and tech developers who participate in our community of practice to come together to connect and learn from each others shared experiences.  Solutions to common problems are identified quickly when people engage in face-to-face discussions over a week long event. 

Architecture F2F

The Architecture Community face-to-face (F2F) was a pre-meeting hosted on Sunday, November 3rd. The purpose was to bring together OpenHIE’s Architecture community to review the current state of the OpenHIE architecture, identify current and upcoming needs, and discuss strategies for advancing priority areas that have not yet been addressed virtually.  Hosting the F2F as an open meeting allowed anyone interested to engage and get a sense of the aspects and engagement strategies of the OpenHIE Architecture community.  With a sense of “reunion” and a spirit of “let’s get things moving” the attendees were excited to engage and advance topics into actionable items. 

The discussion centered around OpenHIE testing, reference software, FHIR and an engagement strategy. The meeting resulted in gathering information for the OpenHIE Architecture community roadmap for 2020.  Items that will be addressed in 2020 include: 

  • Statement about a needs-driven adoption posture around FHIR
  • Further discussion about OpenHIE reference software 
  • A framework for OpenHIE testing and compliance that will support the OpenHIE architecture work
  • Updates and revisions to the OHIE Architecture Diagram and the OpenHIE Architecture Specification


The OpenHIE Academy was the first time introductory courses around OpenHIE have been offered.  The Academy took place prior to the start of the general meeting and was created in response to direct feedback from community members to offer sessions that provide foundational knowledge into OpenHIE concepts and background, so that those new to the Community go into the week with shared vocabulary and context.  

Intro courses provided essential history, concepts, and competencies to understand the role of OpenHIE as a health information exchange and how to utilize the architecture to enhance data for decision making at all levels of the health system.  The Academy was sponsored by Mekelle University College of Health Sciences, whose faculty were engaged in the planning process and as course facilitators, along with subject matter experts from the global community. 

  • Course instructors developed learning objectives for each course as well as a lesson plan that emphasized interactive activities. 
  • With 200 participants, there was a great deal of excitement around the course offerings.  Consensus from the event was that the Academy was very beneficial for people and they continue to want more training and knowledge sharing.  Great interest was expressed in starting up a community to lead the development of the Academy for future years, and expand it to offer online resources and to other learning platforms.  If you would like to be involved, reach out on OpenHIE Discourse

Intro Courses offered to event participants;

  • History of OpenHIE and How to Leverage It
  • Intro to HIE and OpenHIE – Concepts and Conventions
  • Introduction to OpenHIE – Architectural Conventions and Standards
  • All About Registries and Workflows
  • Applying Health Information Exchange to Real World Scenarios
  • Overview of Global Data Standards
  • What is a Global Good?

Opening of General Meeting

With many of the attendees having been at the Academy, the room was filled with excitement and anticipation of the formal conference to get underway.  Dr. Yekoyesew Worku the Minister of Health’s Chief of Staff opened the event.  Director General Dr. Yekoyesew Worku noted that Ethiopia is undertaking massive initiatives to digitize health information and its systems to transform the quality and use of data for informed decisions. 

Hibret Alemu, Data Use Partnership’s Project Director presented Ethiopia’s Health Sector Status. Alemu represented on behalf of Mrs. Biruk Abate, Director of Policy Plan Monitoring and Evaluation Directorate Director.  Alemu reported births attended in a facility increased from 5% in 2005 to 48% in 2019.  He attributed this gain to the ministry’s commitment to building different health information management systems which play a significant role in enhancing data quality and use.   

Community Voice in the Agenda

Each OpenHIE Community Meeting incorporates “unconference” sessions, allowing participants to determine portions of the agenda.  The goal of having some predetermined sessions and unconference sessions is to ensure community members get what they need from the conference and enable time for relevant discussions.  This innovative approach of unconferencing has been applied at conferences in the technology sector (e.g. Google, OpenMRS) and has been well received as an approach to customize a conference to meet the peer-to-peer learning goals of participants.

This year OpenHIE tried to improve upon this format by the collection of unconference session suggestions from community members ahead of the OpenHIE Community Meeting.  Suggested topics were then posted on the OpenHIE wiki for other community members to view and vote on if they also were interested in the topic.  The goal of this approach was to better understand what community members were hoping to hear about and share with each other at the event.  Overall this approach was a success as the planning team was able to group together similar topics, connect individuals with similar interests and make sure there was space in the agenda for pressing topics of interest.

openIMIS Developers Workshop

An exciting occurrence at this year’s OpenHIE Community meeting was the openIMIS Developers Workshop running in parallel.  The GIZ team and the broader openIMIS developer community worked with the OpenHIE organizing team early on through the planning of the event to take advantage of the audience and the opportunities of shared learnings.  The side event saw the openIMIS developers working on and showcasing the health insurance software.  Excitingly some of the data exchange projects of data flowing from OpenMRS/Bahmni to openIMIS to administer health insurance claims data; as well as data flowing to DHIS2 to make use of the analytics aspects.  The openIMIS community also contributed some of their design thinking and workflows to the OpenHIE Health Finance towards universal health coverage community (UHC) as a base to start refining the UHC communities thinking about workflows relating to health insurance. 


The OpenHIE Hackonnect-a-thon brings together two exciting types of meetings.  It combines the principles of a connectathon and a hackathon to provide a space for teams to connect their existing tools to OpenHIE workflows and components, and support new data exchange use cases.  Each year we as a community learn a little more on how we engage at the technical events. 

This year, a range of technical challenges and topics were proposed, covering both country and community priorities.  The proceedings began with a high-level overview of each proposed topic, after which attendees self-organised into smaller working groups to focus on particular interoperability challenges, including:

  • OpenHIM mediator development 101
  • Development of a CommCare – DHIS2 data interface using the OpenHIM for a use case in Ethiopia
  • openIMIS Data Exchange and Interoperability to support workflows on beneficiary enrolment and claim submission
  • Opportunities to incorporate the Community Health Toolkit (CHT) into the OpenHIE framework
  • Interfacing with the emerging WHO Computable Care Guidelines technical framework and sandbox architecture
  • Development of DHIS2 – Administrative Registry data interface used in Tanzania.
  • Development of an interface between the Uganda RASS reporting system and the national DHIS2 reporting system used in Uganda.
  • Development of workflows and solution to support Laboratory Information System interoperability.

The teams worked throughout the day to produce several working prototypes, new and revised sets of documented workflows, and the starting points for continued efforts on existing projects and initiatives. In the day’s recap, participants made the suggestion to extend the event to include an additional day of hacking, and dedicated time beforehand to better establish topics and teams before kicking off proceedings on the day.

Where do we go from here?

Over the last year the OpenHIE community has been able to establish new workgroups within OpenHIE around supply chain and health financing.  We’ve also improved engagement with standards development communities, and sharing the proceeds of our work to provide more “self service” for countries.

While in the early years of our community of practice, we were focused on building consensus around our vision for health information exchange.  Then over the last few years we have been working to support planning and adoption of eHealth architecture.  Now as we go into the next phase for OpenHIE we are focused on how to better support ministries of health and implementation of architecture to provide patients with better care.  Our hope for the community is it will continue to grow by providing a place for people to connect and share knowledge around HIE solutions. Here are some areas of focus for 2020: 

    • Supporting and providing peer mentorship to emerging country eHealth leadership
    • Further development of OpenHIE Academy
    • Cultivate successful organizational partnerships
    • Amend areas of the Architecture Specification Release
    • Planning for OpenHIE conformance testing
    • Enhance online community to better support countries and implementers

2020 is a big year for OpenHIE and we are very excited to see our vision continue to spread and bring growth to the community.  Details around this years meeting in Malawi will be coming out soon and we look forward to having you join us #WeAreOHIE! 

Also, if your country is interested in bringing collaboration around HIE to your country please see how to apply now for our 2021 OpenHIE Community Meeting on our blog.


For the last two years our OpenHIE (OHIE) community has gathered to learn from one another and to celebrate each others’ accomplishments. In 2018, at our inaugural meeting in Tanzania, 186 stakeholders, implementers, and subject matter experts from over 60 organizations came together to share stories, learn more about interoperability, and to collaborate on solutions for health information exchange. In 2019 more than 220 participants representing 71 organizations from 25 countries were hosted by the Ethiopia Ministry of Health to learn about and discuss how to better utilize OpenHIE’s architecture to enhance data for decision making. Later this year, Malawi will host our 3rd annual OpenHIE Community Meeting in Lilongwe. Get information as it becomes available by following @OpenHIE on Twitter.

One goal of #OHIE20 in Malawi is to announce the location of #OHIE21 so we are looking for those interested in hosting the 2021 event! If you are interested in hosting the 2021 OpenHIE Community Meeting, please review the following criteria developed to help ensure success for the host country in their preparations for this event. The following are not requirements, but are considerations outlined to serve as general guidelines to countries and the OpenHIE community:

  • Significant local OpenHIE community activity, that is, a presence of an ongoing OpenHIE implementation, long-standing community membership etc.
  • Commitment to OpenHIE as a network, regional, or country level architecture.
  • Strong local hosting organization with an ability to engage local resources/sponsorship.
  • Country is interested in supporting the long-term strategic interests of the OpenHIE community.
  • Easy access, that is, good international airport, liberal visa policies (e.g., eVisa or visa on arrival available for visitors from many countries), local transportation.
  • Availability of travel and hotel infrastructure suitable to host the meeting.
  • Provision of good security throughout the meeting.
  • Country context aligns with OpenHIE’s mission.
  • Openness/willingness to host OpenHIE site visits.

If interested, please fill in the following INTEREST FORM HERE

If you have any questions, please send an email to, or contact our Community Manager Jamie Thomas directly at

The application deadline is: 19 April 2019 by 11:59 pm in the applicants time zone.

The OpenHIE community has expressed an interest in using a more collaborative platform to share knowledge and network. After looking at different tools we’ve chosen Discourse and been working to stand up a customized version of the platform to meet our community’s needs.

Some of you may be aware (or already be using Discourse – but for those who are not familiar with the platform here is a little taste of what it can do for our community.

The six big features that Discourse offers over Google Groups are…

  • Ability to build sub-forums to enable more focused discussions.(e.g., architecture questions, releases, implementation help) where interested parties
    can talk in detail without the entire community being notified.
  • Ability to reduce duplicate posts by showing related questions, stickied posts, etc.
  • Ability to add features like FAQ, voting for right answers, @mentioning relevant parties, analytics on activity.
  • Ability to keep engaging the community by sending out weekly emails with most active discussions.
  • Ability to highlight contributors (e.g., badges for most answers to questions, profiles with links to business) so we can recognize individuals.>who have been major participants in conversations and helped others along the way.
  • Ability for folks to keep using Discourse as a plain old mailing list.

To see another instance of Discourse in action, check out and see how OpenMRS is using it to bring developers, implementers, and users together.

To see how OpenHIE’s new community site is set up, check out and start testing out the new categories. We want to hear your feedback on how you think the site looks so far so under the “Site Feedback” category please post questions about the site, its organization, how it’s working for you and how it could be improved.

The plan is to put the current OpenHIE mailing lists in read-only mode over the next few weeks and as you will see old posts from the various mailing lists have already been moved to a “Legacy” category so you can claim/own your old posts and we can start recognizing major contributors immediately!

The aim is to migrate to completely by mid December, with the official closing of mailing lists and launch of the new site on December 13th.

As mentioned above any feedback or questions can be posted on Discourse under the “Site Feedback” category. If there are any concerns or issues with your log in please email

The OpenHIE Architecture Specification Version 2.0 is now available from the OpenHIE web site.  

OpenHIE is a Global Mission-Driven Community of Practice dedicated to improving the health of the underserved through open and collaborative, development and support of country driven, large scale health information sharing architectures. The OpenHIE community supports interoperability by creating a reusable architectural framework that introduces a service oriented approach, maximally leverages health information standards, enables flexible implementation by country partners, and supports interchangeability of individual components.

The newest OpenHIE Architecture Specification outlines the reusable architectural framework and data exchange practices that constitute OpenHIE.  However, the framework is intended to be constantly evolving as standards and implementer needs change over time. Therefore the OpenHIE Architecture Specification is a living document created by the OpenHIE Community and based upon real-world implementations and needs. 

The purpose of the specification release is to:  

  • Articulate what is needed to be an OpenHIE component or part of the architecture
  • Articulate the workflows that are currently recognized as patterns to follow
  • Provide a reference for implementers to use in eHealth architecture and/or implementations if needed

We believe that diverse input and viewpoints make the architecture stronger.  You are encouraged to provide comments, propose edits, or other suggestions for future specification versions on our feedback page. If you have questions or need help unrelated to this guide, please contact us. In addition, the OpenHIE Architecture Community invites your collaborative input as we move forward together.   Please join us in this journey of establishing data exchange practices and patterns. Our meeting schedule is posted on the OpenHIE wiki.  

Written By: Jennifer Shivers, OpenHIE Associate Architect


On behalf of the entire OpenHIE community, we are excited to announce the 2nd OpenHIE Community Meeting focused on improving the use of data, which will be held November 4-8 at the Hyatt Regency in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  Concurrent with this event will be an OpenHIE Academy, that will provide training and lessons learned to help guide design and implementation of health information architectures, standards and exchanges.  Stay tuned for more details about the agenda and how to book your hotel room. 

OpenHIE community meetings are intended to directly support countries as they grapple with the many challenges inherent in driving large-scale health information-sharing architectures.  We invite government officials, and the implementers and developers seeking to support them, to participate in this event.  This meeting will be an amazing opportunity for peer mentorship, where strategies and approaches to empower pragmatic, standardized, and sustainable health information sharing are shared.  It’s also a great chance to network and share your current and future plans.

We look forward to seeing you in November!


Who should attend?

  • Anyone new to the OpenHIE community who wants to connect with others who are interested in health information exchange
  • Ministry of Health and ICT Leaders who want to learn more about the governance structures around information exchange, architectures and data standards
  • Experienced OpenHIE community members and ICT implementers who want to share their experiences and learn from others
  • Developers of related health and healthcare application software who want to learn more about standards and system interoperability 

Why you should attend!

This event provides a unique opportunity for implementers to collaborate and improve their knowledge of OpenHIE, share needs, and propose new priorities.  Additionally, government leaders will gather and share approaches to plan for and design interoperable solutions.  For more details, please visit

Community Meeting Agenda:

The OpenHIE Community Meeting agenda will feature several tracks, including those specifically geared toward  government leaders as well as one for OpenHIE Implementers.  Additional tracks for developers will also be included to connect the community meeting with the OpenHIE Academy.  In additional to these pre-arranged sessions, the agenda will have several open “unconference” sessions where community members will propose presentations on topics relevant to their OpenHIE implementations. Stay tuned for more details on ways to propose session ideas.

Conference Themes:

  • Information Sharing: Enabling Real World Data Use
  • Operationalizing Data Use

More information about Registration, Accommodations, Visa Invitation Letters and other logistics will be communicated/released over the next few months.  Please watch for new details.


Last year our OpenHIE (OHIE) community gathered in Tanzania to learn from each other and celebrate each others accomplishments. The inaugural meeting was held in Tanzania where 186 stakeholders, implementers, and subject matter experts from over 60 organizations came together to share stories, learn more about interoperability and collaborate on solutions for health information exchange. We have begun planning for #OHIE19 and are looking for anyone interested in hosting this year’s conference!

If you are interested in hosting the 2019 OpenHIE Community Meeting, please review the following criteria we’ve developed to help ensure success and guide you in the preparations for this event.  The following are by no means requirements, but hopefully will serve as helpful guidance to countries and the community:

  • Significant local OpenHIE community activity, that is, a presence of an ongoing OpenHIE implementation, long-standing community membership etc.
  • Commitment to OpenHIE as a network, regional, or country level architecture.
  • Strong local hosting organization with an ability to engage local resources/sponsorship.
  • Country is interested in supporting the long-term strategic interests of the OpenHIE community.
  • Easy access, that is, good international airport, liberal visa policies (e.g., eVisa or visa on arrival available for visitors from many countries), local transportation.
  • Availability of travel and hotel infrastructure suitable to host the meeting.
  • Provision of good security throughout the conference.
  • Country context aligns with OpenHIE’s mission.
  • Openness/willingness to host OpenHIE site visits.

If interested, please fill in the following INTEREST FORM HERE

We will reach out to those of you that have previously applied to host this event.

If you have any questions, please send an email to . One can also get in touch directly with Jamie Thomas:


By: Amanda BenDor, Paul Biondich, Carl Fourie, Eden Tarimo, and Jamie Thomas

Organizing an international five-day meeting for a diverse digital health community is no easy task.  There are venues to secure, agendas to develop, and invitation letters to draft. Yet the leaders and innovators of the OpenHIE community were driven to ensure that we all had a place where we could gather to get to know and learn from each other about health information exchange.

186 people from approximately 61 organizations around the world took part in the inaugural OpenHIE Community Meeting in Arusha, Tanzania for the five-day event.  This meeting provided a unique opportunity for implementers to collaborate and improve their knowledge of OpenHIE, share user stories, and propose new priorities.  Government leaders were able to learn from each other about approaches to designing interoperable solutions, as well as governance frameworks that have been applied for health system information exchange.

The organizing committee set out with several objectives for the inaugural meeting.  Wanting to be sure to connect implementers and widen the network. Provide a space for  community members to share their experiences, harmonize tools, contribute to OpenHIE global goods, and advance conversations and technologies to enable information exchange.  As well as provide policy-makers (and those new to the community) a better understanding of OpenHIE and its role in promoting interoperability and systems thinking.

Opening sessions and remarks

The meeting was officially co-inaugurated by the Tanzanian Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children (MoHCDGEC), Dr. Mpoki Ulisubisya; and PATH President and CEO, Mr. Steve Davis.

In his opening speech, Dr. Mpoki emphasized the following key notes:

  • The OpenHIE community is an important platform for sharing technology from across the globe.
  • OpenHIE is an opportunity to replicate and share solutions developed in other parts of the world.
  • Data is crucial to decision-making. “If collected data is not being used for informed decision, it’s a waste of time.”
  • It is critical to have an information system for tracking patients in a country.

Striking an agenda balance

Ahead of the meeting, the OpenHIE wiki was updated with sessions that covered four agenda tracks: Leadership and Governance, Facilitating Data Exchange, Standards and Interoperability, and Implementers’ Experiences.  However, much of the agenda was intentionally left blank. Why?

OpenHIE wanted this to feel like a community event, creating a forum for people to interact, learn, and share outside of the traditional conference framework.  One way of doing this was to facilitate an “unconference” agenda, whereby attendees propose sessions. On the first day of the conference, a board was filled with session topic ideas, ranging from eIDSR to OpenHIE training to the Interoperability Maturity Model.  Participants then voted on the sessions they wanted to attend by placing stickers next to session topics on the board.  By the first coffee break of the day, the community meeting agenda began to take shape.

“I really enjoyed the new ideas and variety of session organizers during the unconference sessions at the OpenHIE Community Meeting. The unconference sessions were a refreshing mix of new ideas and different approaches sourced directly from digital health leaders across the continent.”

– Wayan Vota, Director of Digital Health, IntraHealth

Session Highlights

Over the course of the event there was  a great range of sessions covering a multitude of topics.  Some strong highlights from the Interoperability and Standards track included the deep interest in how standards are applied to projects.  Teams shared their experiences as they undertook the process of designing with standards and patterns in mind too. As well as a fishbowl and Q&A session with OpenHIE team members about how standards and profiles evolve and what it takes to go to a connectathon.

The host country, Tanzania, thoughtfully shared their experience around implementing an HIE and some of the challenges and outputs around that.  This level of sharing gave great context to the event site visits too to see some of the HIE in action. There was also interesting input from other countries including South Africa with the African Health Information Exchange initiative and colleagues from Europe as they shared their experiences too.

The work that has been undertaken by Jembi and Intellisoft teams in addressing cross border data exchange was of great interest as well as the technologies and approaches to solving this problem.  This level of knowledge sharing shed light on ideas of where HIE’s could be going in the future.

An exciting impromptu development during the event was, true to community and OpenHIE style, an unconference style software and solution showcase.  This allowed teams with software and solutions to “grab a laptop”, setup at a table and demonstrate what they had to offer/show to interested members of the community.  There was a great deal of interest and additional investment of time by the community for these showcases. This will most definitely be something considered for future events.

These are but a few of the highlights of the week!

Site Visits

Participants at the event, and the OpenHIE community as whole, support system interoperability and information exchange with the ultimate goal of improving health.  The belief is that making data easier to access and understand will help health workers, clients, and others in the health ecosystem provide better, faster, and more informed services, from refilling a stock request at a warehouse to accessing a patient’s electronic medical record to consulting before providing care.  

As part of the OpenHIE Community Meeting, participants had the opportunity to visit health facilities (10 health facilities) in near Arusha city, Arusha district and Meru district to see the Tanzania Immunization Registry (TImR) implemented by the Better Immunization Data (BID) Initiative which used components of the OpenHIE architecture.  Each site visit include no more than 10 people, and provided a demonstration of the immunization registry system in operation at the site. The site visit also highlighted how electronic stock management and the immunization registry make the daily lives of health workers easier.  As well as allowing more health workers at multiple facilities access to a patient’s data, giving patients the freedom to travel to the facility most convenient to them for vaccinations.

For those who are unfamiliar with TImR it was introduced in 2016 and has been integrated with the countries Vaccine Information Management System (VIMS) to make up Tanzania’s Electronic Immunization System (EIS).  TImR offers the following benefits:

  • Electronic immunization registry with supply chain information
  • Automated, simplified report generation
  • Barcodes on child health cards and vaccine supplies
  • Targeted supportive supervision for health workers
  • Peer support networks
  • Online and offline functionality

Barcodes used by TImR uniquely identify each client and can also be used to search the immunization registry for returning clients by using a simple handheld barcode scanner, synced with the TImR device.  This feature helps healthcare providers to see a high number of clients in a short time. TImR is able to work offline in addition to online, which enables the immunization service to be functional in areas without reliable internet access.  Information collected in the offline mode is later transferred to the central server to enable information exchange with other facilities.

If you would like to learn more watch the video below as Walter Michael Ndesanjo with Tanzania’s Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children discusses the TImR system.


The first OpenHIE Community Meeting was followed by a two day Connectathon/Hackathon.  This event provided technical attendees a space to get their hands and minds into some of the deeper points of OpenHIE.  The focus was around a set of “challenge groups” that emerged where participants were collaboratively looking at how to address the problems in support of OpenHIE.  These groups included “Case Based Surveillance”, GOFFR, ADX on FHIR, OpenHIM (Installation and building mediators) and the “Global Goods on a Box” (which later transitioned to an academy trac).

Teams were encouraged to share experiences, challenge preset ideas, come up with ways to solve problems and very much encouraged to learn. To the last point there was a fantastic introduction session to the basics of FHIR, Docker and other tools that are cross cutting for HIE operations and development.

Aside from the “formal” groups we had many side conversations and projects, including OpenLMIS, some development of prototype mediators for data exchange and other technical conversations where members got to work collaboratively towards an outcome.

Some of the highlights included:

  • A lot of interest in learning more about FHIR (Fast healthcare Interoperability Resources)
  • A lot of new members engaging around Case Based Surveillance ideas
  • Great working groups around ADX of FHIR (PoC developed)
  • Many teams left with more hands on experience of tools.
  • The coining of the name “HacKonnecALearnAThon” defined as a single event promoting the hacking of solutions, learning of ideas, connecting of systems and building of community

Closing sessions/remarks

During the transition between the unconference sessions and the connec-a-thon, we reviewed our progress as a community in an open session that allowed us to share lessons learned for future conferences.  During these discussions, we committed to regular (yearly) events, each held in the environments we are directly trying to serve. A number of country representatives expressed interest in hosting future events.  The comments strongly reinforced the power of coming together for peer learning and consensus building around health information exchange. Some participants expressed pleasant surprise as to how something so seemingly “unorganized” at first glance could be so valuable and educational.  The unconference closed with most participants taking working meetings, social time, and meals that lasted long into the late hours of the night.

Where we go from here

While OpenHIE has been together virtually as a community for the last 3-5 years, for many of us, this was the first time we’ve ever been able to meet face-to-face as this growing collection of people, organizations, and partnerships.  The show of support for this event exceeded all of our expectations. For all of us, it’s mind-blowing as to how much we’ve accomplished given the constraints we all face. OpenHIE, from our eyes, is broadly considered the “go-to” place for work around operationalizing data sharing strategies within constrained environments.  This being said OpenHIE will have to continue to quickly transition our community processes from a focus on socializing what we as a community are all about into daily meaningful action for countries trying to practically implement health data sharing architectures. This event was a powerful reinforcement and injection of energy into what we’re trying to accomplish together as a community.  All of us are moving forward the many actions we agreed to: establishing new working groups within OpenHIE, engaging the standards development communities in new ways, and making the proceeds of our work more “self service” for countries. Some of us are even planning now for next year’s event! Until then!