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Health - Software

Jean-Michel Prima - 18/06/2012

New interoperability testing service for Health IT

Abdel Tamoudi

IHE-Europe launches the first vendor-neutral service to test the interoperability of software used by healthcare information systems. The move features a technology transfer from French research center Inria to software testing provider Kereval.

Berlin. Vienna. Pisa. Barcelona. Bordeaux. Once a year, somewhere in Europe, vendors of healthcare information systems convene for a weeklong session of interoperability testing better known as Connectathon. This gathering is the most perceptible action of IHE-Europe, a non-profit association dedicated to jacking up interoperability in health information and communication technology (HICT). At stake: seamless patient care and the rise of e-health. For over 5 years, Inria has been closely associated to this endeavor. A development team was purposedly assembled in its Rennes research center, in Brittany, under leadership of IHE Technical Project Manager Eric Poiseau. Its major achievement is Gazelle, a set of open source tools designed to facilitate testing.
With this software now well on track, IHE has announced a reshuffle and the creation of IHE-Services. “Being a research center, Inria doesn't operate a service provider,  Poiseau remarks. So right from the outset, it was understood that after reaching maturity, we would have to externalize and find a durable solution. All options were bandied about. Outsourcing to India was not my favorite. Creating a company from scratch was an option but we would have needed a certification within two years. Meanwhile, I had coordinated the HITCH project whose purpose, on behalf of the European Commission,  was to draw a road map for certification, labeling and accreditation in interoperability testing. Such notions imply the implementation of a Quality Management System. That happens to be precisely the core expertise of Kereval.”

Nested a stone throw away from Rennes, this independent and certified software testing provider boasts a 10-year experience qualifying software for a variety of clients such as car manufacturers, banks and telecom carriers. “Entering the healthcare market has always been a goal, Kereval's founder Abdel Tamoudi explains. Under the deal, we will work as a contractor for IHE-Europe on a 3-year basis, using the Gazelle technology. Meanwhile, the four members of the R&D team will leave Inria and join our staff. A Kereval's quality engineer will also be assigned to the effort.”  The task is essentially two-fold: improve the tools and organize the yearly Connectathon. Next edition will take place May 21-25 in Bern, Switzerland.
Why was Kereval selected over several of its European competitors? “Our company is recognized as a specialist in improving software quality,  Tamoudi says. But our proximity to Inria was also key. It is worth noting that this relationship with the research center helps to keep valuable skills in the region. That proves all the more important as we expect HICT activities to thrive in the coming years. For us, this is a tremendous opportunity. Kereval is now poised to become the reference company for healthcare interoperability testing in Europe. This new visibility will also help us to market our other services such as load or security testing.” As Poiseau puts it: “We bring them the market. They bring us quality management. It is a win-win situation.”
A cogent illustration of that, is the recent tender to supply a demonstrator of the Electronic Medical Record to ASIP Santé, the French e-health agency. “We are both being subcontracted,  Tamoudi explains. IHE-Europe will take care of the interoperability while we, the bug hunters, will deal with the quality testing.”

Keywords: Abdel Tamoudin Kereval Eric Poiseau IHE INRIA Rennes - Bretagne Atlantique