The IHE Connectathon is a week-long testing event managed by sponsoring organizations. Currently there are events annually in North America, Europe and Asia. The major goal of the Connectathon is to promote the adoption in commercially available healthcare IT systems of the standards-based interoperability solutions defined by IHE. The Connectathon serves as an industry-wide testing event where participants can test their implementations with those of other vendors.
The sponsors record the results of the testing and produce a results matrix that lists the Integration Profile and Actor combinations that each participant has tested. The results do not indicate or imply that an organization/vendor has a product that is ready for market. These results are published and promoted by the sponsors to inform the healthcare community about the adoption of IHE solutions by industry and to encourage purchasers of healthcare IT systems to require support of IHE Actors and Integration Profiles in their requests for proposals and purchasing specifications.
Connectathon participants are encouraged to offer the IHE Integration Profile/Actor combinations they test in commercially available systems as quickly as possible. When they do they are encouraged to publish IHE Integration Statements to describe for prospective purchasers the IHE capabilities offered in these systems. IHE maintains a registry where Integration Statements are published and encourages purchasers of healthcare IT systems to consult these documents to identify IHE-compliant systems.
Participation in IHE demonstrations requires that an organization successfully complete a minimum set of tests for any actor/profile pair to be demonstrated. A demonstration manager will publish the minimum requirements for demonstration participation and evaluate the Connectathon tests. Systems that do not successfully complete the required tests for an actor/profile combination are not included in public IHE demonstrations. By signing up for an IHE demonstration, the company is accepting the part of the IHE process that is the Connectathon testing.
Many vendors participate in Connectathons without any direct plans to participate in a demonstration. Even in cases where vendors are participating in preparation for a demonstration, the major goal of the Connectathon is to refine the implementation of IHE Actors and Integration Profiles in the systems being tested.
The IHE wiki also has this nice summary of the purpose of Connectathons.