Tech giants reaffirm support for FHIR interoperability standard

Amazon, Google, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, and Salesforce once again have pledged to work to advance HL7’s Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources application programming interface.

The six technology behemoths made the joint announcement on Tuesday to coincide with the White House Blue Button Developers Conference, with a commitment to accelerate the delivery of FHIR APIs in healthcare.

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USA, Washington D.C, White House, garden and fountains in foreground

Last year, the companies made a similar pledge putting their support behind FHIR. However, earlier this year, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT proposed rules that the tech giants point out “focus on the use of FHIR as an open standard for electronically exchanging healthcare information.”

According to Tuesday’s joint statement from the vendors, FHIR “builds on concepts and best practices from other standards to define a comprehensive, secure and semantically extensible specification for interoperability,” and as such, they contend that the techniques required to meet the objectives of ONC and CMS are available today and can be delivered cost effectively with well-engineered systems.”

Also See: Proposed ONC rule requires FHIR interoperability standard

“We are committed to introducing tools for the healthcare developer community,” states the companies’ pledge. “After the proposed rule takes effect, we commit to offering technical guidance based on our work including solution architecture diagrams, system narratives and reference implementations to accelerate deployments for all industry stakeholders. We will work diligently to ensure these blueprints provide a clear and robust path to achieving the spirit of an API-first strategy for healthcare interoperability.”

Earlier this year, HL7 published FHIR Release 4—the normative version of the standard—which the tech leaders contend “provides an essential and appropriate target for ongoing investments in interoperability.” However, in its proposed rule, ONC specifically would make FHIR Release 2 a requirement.

The agency decided to require FHIR Release 2 because its research late last year indicated that 87 percent of hospitals and 57 percent of Merit-based Incentive Payment System-eligible clinicians are served by health IT developers with products certified to FHIR Release 2.

Nonetheless, ONC’s proposed rule lays out a Standards Version Advancement Process that the agency contends would enable developers to choose among the versions of standards and implementation specifications listed in regulation or National Coordinator-approved newer version updates for any or all standards applicable to criteria subject to real-world testing requirements.

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