HL7 to offer its interoperability standards for free

Standards development icon Health Level Seven International (HL7) has decided to offer its intellectual property, including its standards for interoperability, free of charge via licensing agreements, beginning in 2013.

"HL7's vision is to make its collaborative, consensus-driven standards the best and most widely used in healthcare," said CEO Charles Jaffe, M.D., in the announcement. "By eliminating this barrier to implementation, we can come closer to realizing our goal, in which healthcare IT can reduce costs and improve the quality of care."

According to HL7's PowerPoint explaining the decision, the organization chose to provide its standards to more effectively advance interoperability, help government agencies, vendors and academia fulfill their goals and be more closely aligned with other standards organizations.

In addition to the standards, HL7 also will provide for free implementation guides, some tooling, and other information. Education and training, certification, and most publications will not be available for free.

HL7's announcement was seen as welcome news by the health IT industry. National Health IT Coordinator Farzad Mostashari, M.D., tweeted that this development "will be huge in removing a significant barrier for small startups and innovators to get involved in health."

John Halamka, M.D., CIO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, noted in a blog post that Stage 2 of Meaningful Use depends on many of these standards, and that the federal government had chosen the HL7 standards for its incentive program, but that current access to them via membership made the standards inaccessible to all stakeholders, which was problematic.

"Today is a milestone for interoperability and the entire HIT industry should offer their thanks," Halamka posted.

To learn more:
- here's the announcement
- read Halamka's blog
- here's HL7's PowerPoint presentation
- see Mostashari's tweet