HIT powerhouses join forces to accelerate data sharing

Health Level Seven International (HL-7), in coordination with several electronic health records vendors and providers, has launched a project to advance Fast Health Interoperability Resources (FHIR) and improve data sharing.

The purpose of the project, called the Argonaut Project, is "to rapidly develop a first-generation FHIR-based API and Core Data Services specification to enable expanded information sharing for electronic health records and other health information technology based on Internet standards and architectural patterns and styles," according to HL-7's Dec. 4 announcement

FHIR is a "next generation standards framework" already used in other industries and "represents a significant advance in accessing and delivering data while offering enormous flexibility," according to the announcement. The project addresses the recommendations of the Health IT Standards and Policy Committees' joint JASON task force.   

Twelve organizations are involved in the project, including Epic, Cerner, Mayo Clinic and athenahealth. They plan to create FHIR-based EHR data sharing API specification by spring of 2015.

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center CIO John Halamka, who also is part of the project, called it "a perfect storm for innovation when stakeholders, resources, and political will align," in a blog post.

"The Argonaut Project is a great example of policy and technology solving real problems in a reasonable timeframe driven by the value proposition that interoperability via open standards benefits all," he said.

The project is a prime example of private industry stepping in solve a problem. The lack of interoperability in health IT has become a major issue as the industry moves to more advanced stages of the Meaningful Use program and relies more on electronic data to coordinate care. It has been questioned whether the Current Consolidated Clinical Document Architecture, used in Stage 2 of the program, is sufficient and whether the industry could transition to FHIR in time for Stage 3. There also has been debate about whether private industry or the government should lead the move to interoperability.

To learn more:
- here is the announcement
- read the blog post