ONC proposed rule to accommodate newer versions of FHIR standard

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Keeping up with the latest version of HL7’s Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources standard is a challenge that the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT says it is up to meeting.

In its proposed rule released last week, the agency—for the first time—has said that it intends to make FHIR a requirement for developers participating in the ONC Health IT Certification Program.

Also See: Proposed ONC rule requires FHIR interoperability standard

Specifically, ONC’s proposal seeks to make FHIR Release 2 a requirement. However, last month HL7 published FHIR Release 4—the normative version of the interoperability standard.

Nonetheless, the proposed rule lays out a Standards Version Advancement Process “to handle situations like this where the industry keeps moving and keep updating the standards for new business needs and supporting innovation,” says Steve Posnack, executive director of the office of technology at ONC.

Posnack acknowledges that the regulatory agency has “a tough time keeping up because we have to issue rules all the time to update those standards.” To address the problem, he notes that ONC is proposing a “sub-regulatory process that we’d be able to use working with industry on an annual basis to identify new versions of standards that we’ve adopted.”

According to Posnack, the proposed rule’s Standards Version Advancement Process would allow developers to choose among the versions of standards and implementation specifications listed in regulation or National Coordinator (NC)-approved newer version updates for any or all standards applicable to criteria subject to real-world testing requirements.

“This flexibility to choose among NC-approved versions of standards and implementation specifications would be available both when developers seek initial certification or to maintain certification of a Heath IT Module,” according to an ONC fact sheet on the proposed rule.

As a result, Posnack contends that ONC “has a number of different options in terms of what we can finalize (in the rule) to allow industry leaders to perhaps take a step forward and go directly to FHIR Release 4.”

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