Healthcare IT Interoperability, EHR interoperability, Hospital Interoperability

Data Standards News

IHE, HL7 Renew Deal for Interoperability, FHIR Collaboration

The new agreement between HL7 and IHE will help the two work on interoperability projects exclusively theirs, as well as pilot test projects using either group's materials.

- Health Level 7 International (HL7) and Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise (IHE) have agreed to continue their cooperation on developing interoperable health information, according to a HIMSS press release.


In a joint understanding document, HL7 and IHE agreed to better coordinate either group’s work, adhering to collaborative schedules and working to differentiate the mission of both HL7 and IHE. Specifically, they will work toward accelerating the development of HL7’s Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR), working on approval and testing processes as well as public demonstrations of the product.

In short, the agreement further solidifies IHE and HL7’s respective roles of creating the process toward data standards and creating the systems on which interoperability is possible.

“These two organizations have worked in complementary roles over more than 15 years and have been essential to advancing interoperability in health IT,” said Michael J. McCoy, MD, co-chair of the IHE International board. “HL7 is the leading developer of health IT standards, and IHE has put in place a process to help drive the adoption of standards by the health IT industry.”

The newest agreement also solidifies the differences in either groups’ work. Prior to this partnership renewal, much of the world got muddied together. Going forward, they both seek to fulfill their respective roles in the interoperability arena.

“We’ve recognized a need to impart more clarity about our mutual roles for the community and the marketplace,” said HL7 International CEO Charles Jaffe, M.D., Ph.D. “With the development of FHIR, HL7 has introduced new processes that may seem to overlap with IHE. Therefore, we will seek to clarify how each organization uses terms such as profile and connectathon, and most importantly, the respective roles our organizations play.”

Going forward, HL7 will work specifically on its interoperable systems, namely FHIR. It will serve as a platform specification which other standards organizations like IHE will use to create information governance industry-wide.

IHE will continue to work to identify clinical and operational interoperability use cases and apply an existing set of industry standards on them. The organization will use many widely adopted standards including HL7, W3C, DICOM, CDISC, IEEE and others.

Such activities have already occurred. IHE has applied the FHIR specifications to many use cases including IHE Mobile Access to Health Documents, which allows mobile devices to take part in health information exchange (HIE).

Although IHE and HL7 have already been taking part in their respective appropriate activities, this renewed cooperative agreement will increase their activities, and aims to differentiate the two organizations from one another.

Further, IHE will help FHIR conduct its connectathons, a critical aspect of the adoption and process. Connectathons serve as a public way for industry stakeholders to assess FHIR profiles, IGs, and standards.

IHE has a long history of facilitating these connectathons for vendors, and will continue to do so for HL7 and FHIR.

“Since 1999, IHE connectathons have provided supervised peer-to-peer testing of vendor systems for compliance with IHE profiles and are intended to speed the adoption of interoperability standards in commercially available health IT systems,” the press release says.

In order to facilitate these connectathons, the two organizations plan to coordinate their release calendars. This will help HL7 continue its rapid FHIR reviews and developments.

Likewise, both IHE and HL7 have agreed to jointly educate industry stakeholders in interoperability and data standards, including at annual industry conferences.

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