HL7 standards, IP now at no cost

Standards organization also plans to change its membership model
By Bernie Monegain
10:39 AM
HL7

Making good on its promise, Health Level Seven International’s primary standards and other intellectual property are now available to license at no cost.

The decision represents HL7’s commitment to the betterment of healthcare worldwide by ensuring that all stakeholders have equal access to its HIT standards, officials said.

HL7 first announced its intent to offer its standards and intellectual property free in September 2012. Today, the policy is in effect, and it includes all currently published standards, implementation guides and other select IP as determined on a case-by-case basis.

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“By making our standards freely available, we hope to accelerate the evolution of healthcare information exchange at the very basic levels, and ultimately to impact wellness and healthcare delivery on a global scale, said Charles Jaffe, MD, CEO of HL7.

“This was discussed for two years, voted upon by the board in August, and announced publicly in September,” Jaffe said. “This helps meet multiple demands – that is easier access, reduce barriers to adoption, broader implementation. It was applauded worldwide.”

[See also: HL7 to make standards available free for public good.]

In tandem with its free IP offering, HL7 also plans to revise its membership model, and expects to announce the details in September.

“The other side of the coin is that with the IP freely available, there is a concern that some members – existing or potential – will defer to free access, and they won’t feel obliged to do what is the morally responsible thing, which is to support the organization,” Jaffe told Healthcare IT News during a meeting at HIMSS13.

“There are multiple vendors – large and small – who for whatever reason are not HL7 members. They use the IP, and they have it widely identified on their websites,” he said. “In fact we have to rethink the business model upon which HL7 is predicated and has been successful for nearly three decades. That is you want legal access to the IP, you become a member."

In addition to the existing benefits of membership, new benefits and services, many of which are designed to assist with implementation, are under development and may include: extensive expansion of deeply discounted or free education programs and training, exclusive access to HL7 experts, certification of HL7 conformance; a professionally supported help desk; and enhanced testing of individual expertise in HL7 development, training, and implementation.

[See also: Q&A: Charles Jaffe, MD, CEO of HL7.]

“We expect not only to retain our current members, who are committed to playing a continuing role in the development of high quality standards," said Jaffe, "but also to attract new members who understand the value of supporting standards development and implementation support services. “Membership in HL7 enables organizations to influence the development of standards that will shape the healthcare of the future, as well as providing access to resources, tools, and community that make implementation easier and more effective.”