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Monday, November 24, 2014

Workflow Automation

I've now seen more than a dozen, and written almost a half-dozen workflow profiles over the past two years.  After the first two, the remainder get simpler.  After the first three, if I cannot automate some part of the process, I must be sleeping.  For my last five, I automated a huge chunk of the content development.  And as it turns out, with BPMN 2.0, there is an XML expression for the semantics of what gets depicted in an IHE Workflow profile, addressing things like task ownership, attachments, messaging, and sequencing.  As workflows get more complex, we'll need to incorporate branching and notifications as well.

So for the next IHE PCC cycle of profile development I will be building an Appendix to the PCC Technical framework profiling the use of BPMN to describe IHE Workflows.  The next IHE Workflow profile to come out of PCC (and Radiology): Remote Read, will take advantage of what I get done to facilitate implementation.

A couple of quick notes on the value of this:

  1. I've shown that you can automate development of conformance rules, test plans, and implementation testing via an XML representation of the workflow.
  2. I've also shown that a lot of documentation can also be generated from the XML representation.
  3. You could actually plug the BPMN into your workflow automation tools to simplify your implementation.

It remains to be seen whether I can profile BPMN 2.0 and its XML representation of the workflow semantics (I care some about the pretty pictures, but not terribly much) to provide the same set of capabilities.  But so far, early investigations are promising.  Since I already have a set of five workflows that I've developed my own little DSL for, basically I'll be looking for how to represent that DSL in BMPN 2.0.

It's one of those things you'll get to look forward to here in 2015 as I develop that content in IHE.  And hopefully, as the IHE/HL7 Joint Workgroup continues on its slow but steady process to creation, we'll be able to look at capturing workflow details in FHIR.  But that will have to wait at least for DSTU 3 (the content train for DSTU left the station months ago).

    -- Keith


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