OpenHIE Community Meeting 2019: Improving Data Use for Decision Making

By: News
Posted On: March 2, 2020

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.