Doug Fridsma, M.D., president and CEO of the American Medical Informatics Association, has seen the future of health IT—a future in which data, not documents, are at the core of the exchange of health information.

“When you have standards that are essentially document specifications, they don’t do as well when you have to try to move to a more granular data-driven approach to managing information,” Fridsma, a former senior official in the Office of the National Coordinator for HIT, tells Health Data Management. “That’s why I think data-centric standards like HL7’s Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources have caught the eye of folks.”

Fridsma said he is very positive about data-centric standards like HL7’s FHIR that leverage existing web-based technology “rather than ones that are much more about creating structured documents” such as the Consolidated-Clinical Document Architecture.

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

Public application programming interfaces (APIs) based on open, consensus-based standards such as FHIR have the potential to serve as core functionality to support data access, according to Fridsma. At the same time, he asserts that FHIR is “not quite ready for prime time” and has challenges to overcome before it becomes a mature standard.

“There’s still a lot of variability right now in the way in which FHIR resources are implemented. But, I think they have time to develop what are called profiles, which will constrain them,” says Fridsma. “The Argonaut project will be tremendously valuable in getting us to a point where we have constrained profiles that will drive interoperability based on simple and modular standards.”

The 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. Fridsma called Argonaut a “tremendously exciting initiative that’s being led by the private sector” with more than 40 providers and vendors collaborating with HL7 to speed up development and adoption of FHIR.

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