The Argonaut Project, an industry-wide effort to accelerate the development and adoption of HL7’s Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources, has released a FHIR implementation guide to simplify and standardize the exchange of basic clinical data.

This is the first major publication of an open-industry general FHIR implementation guide, says Micky Tripathi, project manager of the Argonaut Project, and the culmination of two years of work by vendors and providers to produce “road-tested” specifications for developers looking to build interoperability capabilities based on modern Internet architectures.

Micky Tripathi, president and CEO of the Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative.
Micky Tripathi, president and CEO of the Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative.

“It’s really the first foundational, open-industry implementation guide that’s being made available for people who want to build basic, core FHIR-based apps,” Tripathi says.

FHIR is seen by industry stakeholders as a promising solution to the complex interoperability challenges that are confronting healthcare organizations. The newly published implementation guide is compliant with HL7 FHIR Standard for Trial Use (STU) 2.

“This is the first place where we’re stopping and saying, ‘For STU2-compliant FHIR, this is a single stake in the ground, and will remain stable,’” he adds.

Members of the Argonaut Project include major electronic health record vendors, including athenahealth, Cerner, Epic and Meditech, which are basing their FHIR implementations on the guides.

“What the Argonauts have done is created a coalition of vendors, provider groups and other parties,” says David McCallie, MD, Cerner’s senior vice president of medical informatics. “It’s challenging to get the right people in the room with the right attention, focus and commitment to move these really difficult things forward in a vendor-neutral, fair way—and the Argonaut Project has served that purpose quite well.”

Application programming interfaces are included in the 2015 Edition of Health IT Certification Criteria requiring certified EHRs to demonstrate the ability to provide a patient-facing app access to the Common Clinical Data Set (CCDS) via an API. By making interoperable the 21 data elements of the CCDS defined by the Office of the National Coordinator for HIT, the Argonaut data and document query implementation guide provides an important common foundation for virtually any FHIR-based implementation, contends Tripathi.

“For anyone who wants to implement a FHIR-based API to meet the ONC requirement, this guide should do it,” he says.

Also See: Industry leaders mull mandating use of FHIR for info exchange

In related news, CommonWell Health Alliance announced it has completed building the first set of the Argonaut Project’s FHIR specifications into its core services. CommonWell, a consortium of health IT vendors, is working to solve the challenges of HIT interoperability by breaking down the barriers to nationwide data exchange through defining and promoting a national infrastructure with common standards and policies.

“CommonWell has been using FHIR for patient identity management purposes since it first built its core interoperability services, even before the launch of the Argonaut Project,” said Jitin Asnaani, executive director of CommonWell Health Alliance, in a written statement. “By leveraging these latest FHIR specifications, CommonWell is taking the first of many steps to leverage FHIR for clinical interoperability, and plans to support additional FHIR specifications later this year.”

STU3 is the next release of the FHIR specification—which is expected shortly—before it reaches a normative level, which is defined by HL7 as content that has been subject to review and production implementation in a wide variety of environments, and has been “frozen” and is considered to be stable.

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