Health Level Seven® International (HL7®) made a significant announcement on Sept. 4, 2012. It revealed a “decision to make much of its intellectual property (IP), including standards, freely available under licensing terms.”
There are more details to come as to how this will unfold, and the health IT community will need to wait until the first quarter of 2013 to understand the terms of access. However, this is a significant shift in making HL7 standards available to the health care community at no charge.
John D. Halamka, MD, MS, chief information officer of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, stated in his Life as a CIO Blog:
“Meaningful Use Stage 2 depends upon many HL7 standards – HL77 2.51 [HL7 2.5.1] for transactions and Consolidated CDA for summaries. Today’s announcement is very timely and we can expect that the Meaningful Use Stage 2 HL7 intellectual property will be available without charge to all stakeholders in the first quarter 2013, months before the first reporting period for October 1, 2014 attestation begins.”
Charles Jaffe, MD, PhD, CEO of HL7, stated in their press release (PDF).
“HL7’s vision is to make its collaborative, consensus-driven standards the best and most widely used in healthcare. 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. Coupled with increasing government demand for standards that do not require a licensing fee, our decision to move toward free standards is perfectly aligned. To this end, we have already received enthusiastic support for this decision from key healthcare stakeholders.”
This is a solid shift to enable widespread healthcare interoperability more possible. There are a few points of reality though:
- Knowledge of HL7 and the various message types is still necessary.
- Understanding the implementation differences between two sites using the same HL7 version is still necessary.
- The HL7 standard remains a “framework for negotiation.” The standards will just be more freely available to the health care providers working through their EMR/EHR implementation with selected vendors and healthcare community partners.
Meaningful Use as an incentive program and engaged patients as a movement are changing healthcare along a steady path of higher quality and easier data exchange. A few months ago, I asked the question — Is HL7 Still Meaningful? Today, the HL7 organization took an added step to make that answer “now more than ever!”
What do you think about the shift HL7 International announced today? Is this helpful for healthcare interoperability initiatives and Meaningful Use results? Add your comments and thoughts below.
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