Argonaut, HL7 heads absent from White House interoperability meeting

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Tuesday’s interoperability forum at the White House brought together stakeholders from across the healthcare industry, but neither the head of the Argonaut Project nor HL7 were invited to attend.

Conspicuously absent from the meeting were Chuck Jaffe, MD, CEO of HL7, and Micky Tripathi, manager of the Argonaut Project, an industry-wide effort to accelerate the development and adoption of HL7’s Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) standard.

Significant momentum continues to build for FHIR, demonstrating that it has reached a critical point as a mature standard for the electronic exchange of health information. In fact, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT released data in October on the growing use of the standard.

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

Despite FHIR’s expected role in interoperability, neither Jaffe nor Tripathi were invited to the White House for this week’s meeting or the previous “listening sessions” organized by the Office of American Innovation, which is directed by President Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

The White House was not immediately available for comment. Both Jaffe and Tripathi declined to comment.

However, attendees invited to participate at Tuesday’s White House event noted the absence of Jaffe and Tripathi—two prominent interoperability experts who have been instrumental in the success of FHIR as a standard for addressing the challenges of achieving interoperable health IT.

“I think they did a good job of getting good representation at the forum—the one group I wish had been there is HL7, since we were talking a lot about FHIR,” says Doug Fridsma, MD, president and CEO of the American Medical Informatics Association, who attended the meeting.

“Micky Tripathi has done some great work with the Argonaut Project, and taking the FHIR specifications and making them useful from an interoperability perspective—I think that’s been tremendous,” Fridsma adds.

“There were people there at the meeting who are knowledgeable about FHIR, but it’s odd that you wouldn’t have the CEO of HL7 there, given the importance of FHIR,” observes Stan Huff, MD, chief medical informatics officer at Intermountain Healthcare, who was also at the event.

“I can’t explain why Micky and Chuck weren’t there,” adds Huff. “I don’t know the process for who they decide to invite.”

At the same time, Huff notes that National Coordinator for Health IT Don Rucker voiced his strong support of the FHIR standard at Tuesday’s White House meeting.

Some industry observers have suggested that partisan politics are behind the White House’s exclusion of Jaffe and Tripathi from the Trump administration’s series of interoperability meetings.

Fridsma contends that “it’s hard to know” what’s behind Jaffe and Tripathi being shut out of the White House meetings. However, Huff says he “saw no evidence that there was a Republican bias.”

Mariann Yeager, CEO of The Sequoia Project, a non-profit dedicated to solving health IT interoperability, who attended Tuesday’s White House event, also does not see an obvious political agenda at work. “I have no political ties at all,” remarks Yeager.

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