HL7 delivers healthcare interoperability standards

 HL7 International Working Group Meeting September 2013


28 October 2013


The September 2013 WGM was held in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

TC Chair WGM report, September 2013

As with the last few WGMs, there was an FHIRConnectathon on the Saturday and Sunday before the main meeting business got going. The FHIR event was again well attended with around 30 participants, which would have been more if it had not sold out its small room allocation very quickly. The next one in January plans a larger format. Most of those in the room were commercial vendors, who were implementing FHIR and demonstrating their interfaces.

The theme continued through the week, with many sessions that may previously have been HL7 Version 3, now turned over to working on FHIR issues. FHIR went to ballot as draft standard in September, and received many hundreds of comments. The FHIR management group and the workgroups are working through those now, to ensure FHIR is the standard that meets the need of the current developer community. It was interesting to see a lot of new faces at the WGM this time, many of them younger, and it is the implementer focus of FHIR that is bringing these people to HL7.

Look out for a UK FHIR connectathon/hackathon in the next few months (and if you may be interested in taking part, mail me so that we can gauge interest - tcchair@hl7.org.uk).

This was the annual plenary meeting, where a morning is dedicated to invited speakers on various healthcare topics.

The influential CIO John Halamka (Professor at Harvard Medical School, head of the US HITSP Panel), gave a keynote "The Future of Standards", where he stated that FHIR with JSON and REST will be standards that take healthcare forward for the next few years.

CDA continues to be the other big active area in HL7. It is increasingly permeating the US standards space, with government support on many projects. Work is progressing on implementation guides for many areas, mostly US based, but often with some international applicability.

However, while CDA is clearly the best way to exchange clinical documents, and is rapidly being deployed worldwide, it has a limited scope, and cannot produce every fully structured communication that it ideally would. For some time, a wider scoped CDA R3 project has been underway, bringing some further aspects of HL7 V3 to CDA. This work both broadens CDA and removes some inconsistencies, but also increases complexity and so counts against the ease of use that has made CDA R2 so successful. Consequently, with the rapid advance of FHIR, the long term future for HL7 clinical documents is instead now seen as being a merge of CDA R2 and FHIR, with the scope and ease of use of CDA but with the same building blocks of FHIR resources. If that can be achieved, and it seems a realistic prospect, it will give a path to a single HL7 standard for documents, messages and API based data exchange.

Rik Smithies

TC Chair, HL7 UK

22 September 2013



Last modified 29/10/13