In Conversation with Speaker Michael Savage

September 16, 2021
In Conversation with: Michael Savage

Michael Savage is part of the Technology and Integration team at OntarioMD. He’ll be presenting “Building out the Canadian FHIR Baseline and Harmonizing Solutions” at FHIR North 2021. Michael is also a member of the FHIR North organizing committee. 

Beyond being a solid play on words (especially after having exhausted every ‘FHIR’-based pun out there!), I think Planet of the APIs represents the maturity of FHIR adoption around the world; for technical and business actors alike, ‘FHIR-izing’ digital health workflows has become a ‘when’, not an ‘if’. Also, this year’s theme speaks to the heightened breadth and depth of stakeholder engagement in FHIR-based integrations. Where data exchanges used to be discussed and implemented in discrete partnerships between participating systems, we’re now witnessing a ton of large collaboratives being called to action, where lots of different vendors and digital health asset owners are coming together under a common banner of interoperability, and deciding how common FHIR APIs and data exchanges should look, regardless of which specific system is being used.

Honestly, I think the answer will (and should) be the same every year. “Why FHIR, why now?” Because there’s a lot of FHIR-based projects and collaboratives happening, and they’re happening now. Nothing wrong with the same thing being true year after year, just shows that the momentum continues! The FHIR North conference is the perfect Canadian forum for FHIR implementers (be they at the technical or business level) to gain support and participation in their initiatives, and conversely, to have their needs reflected in other in-progress work. So much of the quality of any FHIR-based initiative is the breadth and depth of community input and involvement, particularly where the initiative is grassroots in nature. So, for anyone who’s already involved or looking to get involved (not that the two are mutually-exclusive), it’s in their best interest to show up to as many of these conversations as possible. The only other ‘Why Now’ comment I’d offer is that due to the virtual nature of the conference, we’re even more capable of engaging with other jurisdictions and countries around the world, and not just for sessions, but also for longer-term relationships as well.

There are a few sessions for which I’m particularly stoked. There’s a session planned which will be looking at how multiple jurisdictions can best work together on similar initiatives, such as a Patient Summary implementation across a province, and how they can best keep one another informed and involved so that, even if it’s not meant to be one big cross-jurisdictional project, there aren’t a bunch of unnecessary differences between how different groups work with FHIR toward common goals. Related to this, I’m not at all ashamed to say that I’m really excited to be working with the equally FHIR- and business-savvy Sheridan Cook on a presentation on the Canadian FHIR Baseline Profiles initiative. This initiative is one which Sheridan and I have co-facilitated along with the InfoCentral FHIR Implementers Community for almost 3 years now, and we’re working off of some great momentum to develop a set of Baseline FHIR Profiles which can be used as starting points for future FHIR Implementation Guides in the Canadian realm. The more projects and jurisdictions which commit to using the Canadian FHIR Baseline Profiles as a starting point, the closer we will all be to being able to establish ‘Core’ Profiles and workflows such as what we’ve seen out of other countries like the US.

My main tip for first-time attendees would be, please don’t be shy! I’m sure it can be uncomfortable or intimidating to ask questions, raise points which you see as issues, etc. (especially if you’re a bit newer to the FHIR space in general). However, consider that on the Planning Committee side, it makes our day to see questions and discussions get raised. So, if you’re on the fence about speaking up about something during one of the sessions, or even just shouting out some ideas on the forums which run throughout the platform and the conference, just keep in mind that doing so is directly contributing to this being a more engaging conference. It’s not always easy to make a fully virtual conference feel organic and capable of facilitating new relationships, so every question and comment counts!