ONC releases testing suite to ensure consistent FHIR implementations

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT has introduced a FHIR-based testing suite aimed at HIT developers.

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT has introduced a FHIR-based testing suite aimed at HIT developers.

The agency is intending the testing tools to ensure that the emerging interoperability standard is being consistently implemented.

ONC contends that the testing tool—called Inferno—is particularly important for developers releasing FHIR servers, systems from which provider- and patient-facing apps and other services will obtain health data.

“Inferno has been designed to verify that developers’ FHIR servers meet the leading industry standards most often implemented as part of a FHIR deployment (such as Argonaut Implementation Guide, OAuth 2.0, Open ID Connect, and other best practices contained in the SMART App Authorization Guide),” states Steve Posnack, director of ONC’s Office of Standards and Technology, in a blog.

According to Posnack, Inferno “also includes some bells and whistles, such as testing for Dynamic Client Registration, and has a step-by-step approach for testing each of the standardized interactions needed for apps to register and securely connect to a FHIR server.”

Significant momentum continues to build demonstrating that FHIR has reached a critical point as a mature standard for the electronic exchange of health information. Earlier this week, ONC released data on the growing use of the standard.

Also See: FHIR standard adoption in the U.S. is at a turning point

The Argonaut Project is a collaboration of health IT vendors and providers seeking to accelerate the adoption of FHIR by creating “road-tested” implementation guides accessible to developers to build interoperability capabilities according to modern Internet architectures.

“The goal of the Argonaut Project was to lay a common foundation for basic clinical exchange use cases, and from what we see in the market, that seems to have been pretty successful,” says Micky Tripathi, manager of the Argonaut Project. “Nevertheless, implementation variation does occur because things can get interpreted differently sometimes, and no implementation guide can specify everything to the last detail.”

As a result, Tripathi contends that testing resources are an important way to reveal areas of incompatibility that need to be worked out for more meaningful and scalable exchange as well as better user experience. He notes that the Argonaut Project explicitly decided not to develop its own conformance testing because its implementation guides are freely available and based on open industry standards, and there was the expectation that industry would provide such resources if there was value.

“There are now a number of private companies that provide testing services for the Argonaut Implementation Guide, and Apple also enforces adherence to the Argonaut IG for those who connect to it,” adds Tripathi. “Having ONC now establish a freely available open specification testing suite is a great catalyst to the FHIR ecosystem that I’m sure will be very valuable to implementers going forward.”

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