WHO and HL7 collaborate on global interoperability adoption

The World Health Organization signed an agreement with HL7 to jointly develop guidelines and advance the adoption of open interoperability standards that WHO says are critical to the development of equitable and evidence-based digital health.


As part of its global digital health strategy, “There is a call for WHO to provide global guidance on interoperability standards adoption and guidance on how WHO clinical, public health and data guidance can be translated into digital health systems,” the organization said in a July 3 post on its website.

The expected outcome of the collaboration with Health Level Seven International, according to the agreement WHO posted online, is to make HL7 FHIR-enabled Substitutable Medical Applications and Reusable Technologies Guidelines with multilingual support available at no cost.

SMART patient data exchange standards, funded by the US Office of the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology, were included in the 21st Century Cures Act.

WHO said in the accompanying project description that it will lead the normative standard for health content and the SMART guideline development process, coordinate and identify member states’ needs and ensure a correct representation of WHO-FIC classifications and terminologies within HL7.

HL7 will create the technical mechanisms for FHIR-based standards and translate them into the six official languages of the United Nations – Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish – and receive WHO’s exclusive license.

“WHO herewith grants HL7 a perpetual and irrevocable, non-exclusive, worldwide, royalty-free, sub-licensable license to use such jointly prepared work or parts thereof, for public health purposes.” 


HL7 has collaborated over the past several years with other organizations to advance health data interoperability, including with healthcare organizations like Evernorth and Siemens Healthineers to test the use of the FHIR Accelerator CodeX for prior authorizations in oncology.

Last year HL7 also partnered with the American Medical Informatics Association on a similar two-year collaboration to promote interoperability standards and make implementation guides available to healthcare providers and stakeholders.

“As an organization of members who created and implemented technologies for the electronic health record, our partnership with HL7 is essential in moving forward with advancing health and healthcare with standards for interoperability,” said AMIA Board Chair and President Dr. Gretchen Purcell Jackson, scientific medical officer and professor of surgery, pediatrics and biomedical informatics at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, in that announcement. 

At HIMSS23, former National Coordinator for Health IT Dr. Donald Rucker, who recently discussed the ‘dynamite’ of FHIR with Healthcare IT News, along with Dr. Kenneth Mandl discussed how with a bulk access programming interface, FHIR can help healthcare organizations better manage their data and track their performance.

SMART/HL7 Bulk FHIR “enables push-button access to patient-level data across a patient population,” Mandl said.


“Both parties agree that a coordinated collaboration can advance interoperability for the improvement of global health,” WHO and HL7 say in the agreement.

Andrea Fox is senior editor of Healthcare IT News.
Email: afox@himss.org

Healthcare IT News is a HIMSS Media publication.

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This post originally appeared on TechToday.