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HL7 touts FHIR as new interoperability standard

The hottest health IT buzzwords of the moment are interoperability and standards.

To that end, standards developer Health Level Seven International (HL7) offered its “critical expertise and leadership” in developing interoperability standards in a recent policy statement. HL7 also promoted its health information exchange architecture — Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) — as a key emerging standard.

“FHIR is a free, simple-to-use format that offers great promise for enabling electronic health records systems as well as patient participation,” HL7 CEO Charles Jaffe, M.D., said in the statement. “It has already been adopted by both the public and private sectors at unprecedented rates.”

FHIR has also garnered the blessing of ONC, whose Health IT Policy Committee’s JASON task force report designated FHIR as the best application program interface approach to healthcare data and document-level interoperability.

FHIR also recently received praise from private sector health IT leaders such as John Halamka, M.D., Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center CIO and vice chairman of the federal Health IT Standards Committee.

Halamka told SearchHealthIT in October that even though ONC has been buffeted by significant turnover this year with the departure of top officials — including the agency’s former full-time coordinator, Karen DeSalvo, M.D., deputy coordinator Jacob Reider, M.D., and chief scientist Doug Fridsma, M.D. — private interoperability efforts such as FHIR are becoming de facto standards.

As evidence, Halamka pointed to FHIR’s embrace by a surprisingly wide array of EHR vendors, including bitter rivals Epic Systems Corp. and Cerner Corp., Meditech, Inc. and athenahealth Inc.

In another interoperability-related development, CommonWell Health Alliance announced it has formalized a services agreement with RelayHealth, a service provider subsidiary of one of the non-profit EHR interoperability group’s members, McKesson Corp.

Also, McKesson, Cerner, and EHR vendors Greenway Health LLC and Computer Programs and Systems, Inc., have signed formal agreements with CommonWell to offer their clients, through RelayHealth, services such as patient identification and matching, records location and retrieval, patient privacy and consent management protection and access to records.

Cerner and athenahealth have both said they will provide these services through CommonWell and RelayHealth without charge.

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