Argonaut Project for Interoperability Nears Completion of First Phase

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When it comes to accelerating development of Health Level Seven’s Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) standard, the Argonaut Project is ground zero for building a first-generation application programming interface (API) and core data services specification to expand data sharing among electronic health records as well as other health IT systems.

Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative president and CEO Micky Tripathi has volunteered his organization to serve as the project manager for Argonaut, an initiative launched in December 2014 to advance the adoption of RESTful FHIR APIs and OAuth-based security in the healthcare industry. RESTful APIs are based on modern Internet conventions and widely used in other industries, while OAuth is an open protocol that allows secure authorizationin a simple, standard method from web, mobile and desktop applications.

As Tripathi points out, Argonaut is a “very discrete project that’s not a company or legal entity.” To date, more than 40 providers and vendors—including rival EHR vendors Cerner and Epic—are collaborating with HL7 to accelerate development and adoption of FHIR, which leverages the latest web standards. At last month’s HIMSS15 conference in Chicago, HL7 announced that Accenture and Surescripts have joined the Argonaut Project as the newest members.

The current goal of the Argonaut Project is to accelerate development efforts to provide practical and focused FHIR profiles and implementation guides to the healthcare industry, which is looking to the next-generation standards framework to advance health IT interoperability.

Also See: Coexistence of FHIR, C-CDA Seen Easing Interoperability Problems

“We are coming to the end of the deliverables that were laid out at the beginning of the project, which are related to specifications for security as well as for the FHIR API,” says Tripathi, who reveals that Argonaut still has a couple of more months to complete its current scope of work.

Full release of all FHIR and OAuth specs and implementation guides is “completely on track,” he reports. Tripathi describes the project as a “documentation sprint and the launching of an implementation and testing program.”

According to Tripathi, the Argonaut Project’s implementation/testing program is open to any and all stakeholders who have an interest in deploying FHIR-based APIs with OAuth security for healthcare use cases. “We ask only that you share your experiences on an ongoing basis with others who are also engaged in implementation activities,” states the project’s participation kit. “The goal of the implementation program is to provide feedback to developers while the code is still being refined in order to accelerate the maturity of the standards.”

Argonaut’s implementation/testing program includes a reference implementation FHIR server and client to support two testing modes. For those who wish to implement a FHIR client, a FHIR server with FHIR resources and de-identified medical records is available to test the ability of participants’ clients to read or get data. For those who wish to implement a FHIR server, a FHIR client is available which can be pointed to participants’ servers to test their ability to allow an external client to read or get data.

“The idea is to make the stuff available so that people can do it at their own pace,” according to Tripathi, who calls it a “self-service” model.

As the initial deliverables are being completed, Tripathi says the Argonaut Project is looking to the possibility of a follow-on Phase Two effort which would ostensibly continue the “natural” next steps of the work. “We’re now in discussions with the project sponsors for Phase Two,” says Tripathi. “We’re specifying the detail on that now and the sponsors will either decide or not to decide to go forward with the phase. It hasn’t been finalized yet but it seems there is appetite and need for it.”

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