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HL7, WHO Partner to Drive Global Interoperability Standards Adoption

The collaboration between HL7 and WHO is set to support equitable development of and access to interoperability standards.

Standards-development organization Health Level Seven International (HL7) and The World Health Organization (WHO) have signed a Project Collaboration Agreement to support the global adoption of open interoperability standards.

Adopting interoperability standards is critical for consistently representing health data and information to support data exchange, regardless of the software used.

The Global Strategy on Digital Health 2020-2025 outlines a call for WHO to provide global guidance on interoperability standards adoption.

To support the implementation of the Global Strategy on Digital Health, WHO established the SMART Guidelines approach. SMART Guidelines encode WHO evidence-based recommendations and protocols into clinical decision support (CDS) logic, data dictionaries, and computable care plans through interoperability standards.

One of the main interoperability data standards used for person-centered digital tools is HL7 Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR), an API-based open data exchange standard.

The objectives of the partnership between WHO and HL7 International are to:

  • Strengthen the WHO Global Strategy on Digital Health 2020-2025 implementation at the country level and build capacity to support the equitable adoption and appropriate use of interoperability standards in Member States.
  • Boost access to WHO’s guidance and recommendations by developing interoperability specifications applicable globally and suited for local adaptation.
  • Support using the WHO Family of international classifications and terminologies (WHO-FIC) in the HL7 FHIR community.
  • Make the technical infrastructure and documentation available to support interoperability.

The collaboration between WHO and HL7 International aims to build on the leadership of WHO’s Science Division support to Member States on their digital health transformation.

The partnership is set to enable the equitable development of and access to interoperability standards, evidence-based guidance, and foundational architectural building blocks for digital health to accelerate progress toward Universal Health Coverage, WHO officials noted. 

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