FHIR Product Director’s Report from 2017 Sept (San Diego) Meeting

Last week, the HL7 and FHIR communities met for the annual Plenary WGM. This time, the meeting was held at the Hyatt Regency La Jolla, which was a great facility for the HL7 meeting. Thanks to Mary Ann Boyle, who’s taking over from Lillian in organizing the WGMs – they are a big event to organize.

HL7 Formal Strategy

The HL7 Board announced its core strategic goals during the Plenary session:

  • Enhance the public image and achieve recognition by stakeholders as the leading SDO for worldwide health data interoperability standards
  • Secure long-term sustainable revenue to realize the vision and improve customer experiences (internal and external)
  • Establish FHIR as the primary standard for global health data interoperability
  • Enhance and maintain quality of and accessibility to HL7 standards in current use

With regard to the FHIR specific goal, the board provided these strategic objectives:

  1. Increase understanding of FHIR usage and value of usage worldwide (Immediate)
  2. Achieve symbiotic link of brand and financial benefit between HL7 and FHIR.(Immediate)
  3. Demonstrate the value of FHIR in enabling interoperability (Midterm)
  4. Ensure resources are most effectively focused to enhance FHIR (Midterm)

As you can see, FHIR is front and center… I guess we’re all going to be busy in the coming year making this strategy a reality. At a later time I’ll blog about how we can realize these goals.

FHIR Foundation

The FHIR Foundation is now ready to take members. You can sign up here. The annual fee for individual members at this time is US$250. For that, you get:

  • The knowledge that you’re helping maintain the viability of the FHIR ecosystem
  • Access to the Product Director’s monthly report summarizing the FHIR community progress
  • Access to member’s forum (discuss future of the FHIR Foundation)
  • Access to the member’s market place where job/contract opportunities are
    publicized (and these are starting to flow)

We’ll be adding new additional benefits in the future, as discussed with members. We’re hoping that individual memberships will cover the basic year to year costs of keeping the FHIR Foundation viable (legal/accounting fees etc).

The FHIR Foundation isn’t yet ready to open for organizational members, but it’s our intent that we will be soon. We believe that any company or institution selling services related to FHIR (consulting, middleware, implementation tools etc) will want to be part of the FHIR Foundation, and we’re working on services related to  that now. Note that this is not the same as providing healthcare services using FHIR interfaces, though of course we’ll be building membership benefits for those kind of organizations too.

One again, the FHIR Foundation thanks Google for providing the cloud infrastructure on which the fhir.org services are hosted.

Connectathon

The meeting started with the biggest connectathon we’ve had to date – we had over 218 attendees. It’s become clear that we need to rework the way connectathons are managed – we need more organization and more preparation, as they continue to grow. With that in mind, we’ve asked whether anyone is interested in taking on a formal role as the event organizer (If you’re interested, contact me directly).

There were 22 proposed connectathon tracks for this connectathon. At least 2 of them didn’t get enough participants to get off the ground when it came to it, but most did. Each track provided a very brief summary presentation of outcomes, some of you can find in the links below.

As always, the connectathon is very important to us as a way to validate how the specification works. We will continue to add new streams as our community interests broaden. I plan to blog about some of the streams individually, and some streams have already blogged.

Reports and Blogs:

Clinicians on FHIR

The meeting closes with the Clinicians on FHIR event, where we engage Clinicians by working with ClinFHIR to record real clinical cases with the purpose of identifying gaps or deficiencies in the FHIR specification. This was our 10th event. The organizers of the CoF are developing processes to more clearly document clinical scenarios, testing, and feedback to the FHIR development process, and as part of that, we held a new breakout session for Beginners to help get them up to speed on the process.

The Clinicians on FHIR is another important way for us to validate how the specification works.

SMART App Launch Ballot

The Smart App Launch Specification was balloted in the lead up to this meeting. We received plenty of ballot comments, which is great. We’re confident that we’ll be able to publish the first STU for this specification later this year. Most of the comments related to clarification and clarity in the specification, though we’ll be noting some open issues to work on for future versions of the specification.

Community Consultation

Part of the FHIR Maturity Process is that once an artifact is at level 4/5, breaking changes require formal community consultation. In the next week, I’ll be issuing requests for comment on (at least) the following breaking changes:

  • ValueSet.compose, rename to ValueSet.definition (Vocab)
  • Question on the use of related types with Observation (OO)
  • (II) Proposal to remove ImagingManifest
  • (FHIR-I) Proposal to adopt GitHub Flavored Markdown

Notifications on these will be provided in the following places:

Normative Plans

Overall, our plans are unchanged from last time, though we’ve clarified the
time lines. High points:

  • Draft for comment, Dec/Jan: lining up for ballot
  • Mixed normative/STU, Apr/May: Main normative ballot
  • 2nd Normative + STU, Aug/Sept: 2nd chance ballot
  • Publication Mid-Dec

Those are pretty firm deadlines – we’ll slip normative content back to STU rather than hold up the timeline, since various jurisdictions and consortium initiatives are synchronizing their timelines to this (though HL7 can never provide any firm promises in this regard – we have to follow our processes)

A few additional resources are being considered candidates for normative. Last call for comments about which resources should be candidates will be in November (watch this space). After the draft for comment goes out, resources can be dropped from the normative list, but not added.

Bulk Data

The US ONC has asked to work on adding new capabilities to the FHIR specification to increase support for API-based access and push of data for large number of patients in support of provider-based exchange, analytics and other value-based services. This is a high priority work item for them this year. See write up of plans for further information regarding our proposal – this should lead to a connectathon track at HL7’s January meeting in New Orleans, at which all are welcome.

Tooling EcoSystem

The FHIR tooling ecosystem is starting to fill out quite nicely. In particular, the FHIR registry is now entering pilot mode. Please feel free to use, and (for now) provide feedback through chat.fhir.org.

We’ve been working on documenting the tools we have and need – see the HL7 wiki for further information. This is still draft work, and we’re looking for further feedback and community participation.

Certification

The FHIR Proficiency Certification process was trialed at the San Diego meeting. So far, preliminary results show that we’re broadly on the right track. We still plan to have the certification fully available for the January meeting in New Orleans. Congratulations to

Yunwei Wang, IMO

who was the first person to pass the certification. Intending candidates should note that the test aims to ensure that you are familiar with the scope and shape of the full FHIR specification. Knowing the RESTful API and the resources is not enough for proficiency certification (people who know this stuff well from the connectathons/other implementations will still need to read up on the rest of the specification – terminology, intent, licensing, maintenance procedures, etc).

New Areas for the specification

The HL7 technical committees are taking up new areas of functionality and
adding them to the FHIR Specification as draft/STU for the forthcoming
release 4:

  • Public Health Case Reporting and Reportability Responses (PHER)
  • Occupational Data for Health (PHER)
  • Laboratory Test Catalog (OO)
  • BiologicallyDerivedProduct ( blood transfusion, and hematopoietic cell transplant material.) (OO)
  • Medical Device Nomenclature/Vocabulary Service (Dev)
  • Insurance Plans (FM)

If you’re interested in any of these, please get in contact with the relevant committees.

Forthcoming Events

 

#FHIR Report from Madrid Working Group Meeting

Last week the HL7 Community met for one of our regular working group meetings. This time, we met in Madrid at the Marriott, which was actually a pretty good venue for an HL7 meeting (these are challenging because we want lots of small and medium sized rooms). In particular, the food was excellent. This was also a notable meeting because it’s the last meeting for Lillian Bigham who has organised HL7 meetings for the last 12 years – we’re going to miss her a lot.

As usual, the event kicked off with a connectathon on the Sat/Sun. This meeting set a first for us: this connectathon had fewer participants than the last one – obviously due to the non-US location a lot of regulars didn’t attend.

connectathon

The connectathon as still very productive, with many happy outcomes for the implementers, and further change requests for the FHIR specification itself. Importantly, the set of functionality that the connectathons test continue to broaden.

Product Planning

For the many different committees that manage the various parts of the FHIR specification, this meeting – coming immediately after publishing Release 3 – was an opportunity to make plans for our next release – what features do want in it?

Here is a list of the major features we plan for Release 4:

  • Normative – see below
  • RDF: prototype a solid ontology binding to evaluate how much benefit this might bring
  • Data Analytics: support for a bulk data analysis bridge format (Apache Avro/Parquet?)
  • API: establish better control over retrieving graphs of resources, and value added query support (tabular format?)
  • Patterns: change the W5 framework to a pattern (logical model), tie the patterns to ontology, and use of patterns to drive more consistency (and how to do this without decreasing quality)
  • Services: more business level services. Some candidates: conformance, appointments, personal health data
  • Deployment: get a clear standards path for smart on fhir / cds-hooks (and alignment with UMA/Heart)
  • FM: work on alignment between FM resources and the rest of FHIR

Note that this list anticipates that our normal maintenance tasks will continue to happen, and there’ll still be ongoing changes across the board in response to implementer experience and internal quality processes. (Also, most of these product priorities are already in progress)

Normative FHIR

One of our key plans is that we are going to ballot some of the specification as normative for Release 4. “Normative” means that the content is now locked in and only forwards compatible changes will be made in the future. This means that applications written for an older version will interoperate with the current version (if, that is, certain rules are followed).

This is the current list of artifacts we plan to take normative in R4:

  • Framework / XML / JSON / RESTful API + Search
  • CodeSystem, ValueSet, and possibly ConceptMap. (But not all operations on those resources)
  • Bundle / OperationOutcome / Parameters / StructureDefinition / SearchParameter / + maybe CapabilityStatement/OperationDefinition
  • Patient, Observation

Note that this list won’t be finalized until January, so there’s plenty of time for discussion about this list. You may see some implementation activities driven by this list, as we encourage the community to look at some aspects of these resources in more detail.

Implementation guides and registries

We’ve nearly got all our tooling in place for implementation guides. The final major piece that is missing is registry.fhir.org. We worked hard on getting http://registry.fhir.org ready this meeting, and I’m hopeful that it will be up and running before the September meeting. We also worked on plans for integrating our existing tooling with the registry, and other additional quality processes.

R3 Publication Recognition

A little while before the Madrid meeting, we published FHIR Release 3. Because we did so much QA work, this turned into a massive project, and a few people helped out beyond the call of duty – being available at all times of the day or night. Since these people gave beyond the call of duty, HL7 recognized their efforts:

fhir-hero-contributers

From left: Bryn Rhodes, Eric Haas, David Hay, Rob Hausam, Grahame Grieve (me), Lloyd McKenzie, Brian Postlethwaite, Richard Ettema, Melva Peters, and Michelle (Moseman) Miller

Revised terminology process

During the meeting, we agreed to redesign all the HL7 terminology maintenance to a FHIR based tooling solution. This is part of a wider redesign of the terminology maintenance processes. There’ll be more information about this forth coming.

Quality processes

Most of the planning we did at Madrid for Release 4 involved investing in quality and quality processes. As FHIR as a whole is maturing, so is our understanding of what quality processes we need, and where in the process we need them. Additionally, we are starting to see new content in FHIR that hasn’t been so thoroughly analysed in previous standards (HL7 v2, v3, CDA, etc), such as AdverseEvent, and ClinicalImpression. These resources may need additional informatics related quality processes – this is something we are working on

FHIR foundation

Our plans for membership of the FHIR foundation are also maturing. We hope that membership will be open in the next few weeks – that will enable the foundation to actually start performing some of the functions it needs to do that require funds.

Note that FHIR Foundation board minutes are published on the FHIR Foundation web site.

DevDays USA

The HL7 board agreed that HL7 will hold a FHIR DevDays meeting in USA next year (probably June). HL7 will work with Furore, who organise the very successful FHIR DevDays help in Amsterdam in November of each year.

Changes

A few significant changes were agreed for R4 while in Madrid:

 

 

 

FHIR report from Baltimore meeting

Last week, HL7 held it’s annual plenary meeting in Baltimore at the Hyatt Regency. As usual, the Hyatt Regency’s odd-ball design generated a few comments, but we were not treated to a repeat of the comic-con the weekend before (provided a colorful backdrop to the last Baltimore meeting). I’m pretty sure I heard that this was HL7’s largest meeting ever. What I can say for sure is – accommodation is increasingly hard to get for HL7 meetings; make sure you get in early for the next one.

For the FHIR project, our main attention was the ballot. Across the core standard, and multiple implementation guides, we received >800 detailed comments as part of the ballot. This represents a slight increase over the last ballot, but there was a clear change in the focus of the comments – there was a significant drop in the number of comments relating to the infrastructure, and much more focus on the domain content, and it’s applicability to real world problems. This is a clear marker of the growing maturity of the standard. We continue to expect that we’ll publish FHIR release 3 at the end of this year.

Most of the meeting was devoted to ballot reconciliation, with a focus on the difficult to resolve items. But we got plenty of other things done as well:

  • The FHIR connectathon was out biggest ever, with more streams, more success, more of everything. Note, that the next meeting, in San Antonio, it’s doubtful we can accomodate that many people, so it’s probably going to be a case of getting in early…
  • The clinicians on FHIR event was also a success – well, what I saw of it. But since we’ve had people asking us about the event, and whether they can run their own, we filmed a documentary about the event – thanks to Kai Heitmann for doing that. We’re not planning to post this publicly; instead, if you’re interested in hosting a clinicians on FHIR event, let me know, and I’ll share it with you when it’s done
  • We (members of the FHIR team) met with several new communities that haven’t previously been part of the FHIR community, and planned how they could get engaged, and share their energy and outputs with us. As always this is a collaborative
    process, and I’ll be making more announcements about this going forward
  • We made some specific decisions to change widely implemented parts of the specifications; consultation with the wider community around these changes is ongoing (see “JSON Comments” and “Logical References“). This is reflective of our process towards normative; some of the next version of FHIR (release 4) will be normative. I’ll be making more announcements about how that’s going to work in the future (when we figure it out).
  • Probably the most significant single decision we made was to take the specification known by the obtuse code word “DAF-core” – that’s the spec based on the Project Argonaut collaboration – and rename it to the US realm Implementation guide, of which it comprise be one section, how to represent the Common Clinical Data Set. Over time, the US realm implementation guide will grow to encompass more than just that. (btw, one decision related to this is that we are working to bring the technical specification from SMART that Argonaut used to HL7 as an appendix to the FHIR specification, named something like the “Application Launch Framework”)
  • Finally, the FHIR foundation continues to take shape as a key part
    of the eco-system to support the implementation process of standards
    (as opposed to the actual development of the standards themselves).
    In particular, it looks like we’ll soon be able to set fhir.registry.org
    live, which is a key piece of the FHIR picture that many people are awaiting.

Overall, the FHIR development team (well, teams – there are many interlaced teams with responsibilities for different parts of the specification, the process, and the community) are happy with a gradual progress. While there is still much to be done across all the specification, the plenary meeting marked our 5th year anniversary, and we are proud of what we’ve achieved in that time.