This blog is totally independent, unpaid and has only three major objectives.
The first is to inform readers of news and happenings in the e-Health domain, both here in Australia and world-wide.
The second is to provide commentary on e-Health in Australia and to foster improvement where I can.
The third is to encourage discussion of the matters raised in the blog so hopefully readers can get a balanced view of what is really happening and what successes are being achieved.
Wednesday, September 12, 2012
I Suspect This Is A Really Big Deal. I Wonder How It Will Work Out?
Standards development icon Health Level Seven International (HL7) has decided to offer its intellectual property, including its standards for interoperability, free of charge via licensing agreements, beginning in 2013.
"HL7's vision is to make its collaborative, consensus-driven standards the best and most widely used in healthcare," said CEO Charles Jaffe, M.D., in the announcement. "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."
According to HL7's PowerPoint explaining the decision, the organization chose to provide its standards to more effectively advance interoperability, help government agencies, vendors and academia fulfill their goals and be more closely aligned with other standards organizations.
In addition to the standards, HL7 also will provide for free implementation guides, some tooling, and other information. Education and training, certification, and most publications will not be available for free.
Today, the HL7 Board of Directors committed to licensing its standards and other selected HL7 intellectual property free of charge. This policy is consistent with HL7’s vision of making our collaborative and consensus-driven standards the most widely used in healthcare, and with our mission of achieving interoperability in ways that put the needs of our stakeholders first. Our primary aim is to maximize benefits to our members, the healthcare community, and all those who have contributed to make HL7 standards so successful.
I endorse this change – but it won’t be without pain, particularly in the shorter term. Keith recognised my work as one of the contributing factors:
Graham Grieve insisted that his IP which became FHIR, wouldn’t be given to HL7 unless certain stipulations were agreed to about its availability
Well, thanks Keith. But what this does mean is that I’ve been thinking about this already, and I’m worried about it. HL7 is a (not for profit) business built around a particular revenue model. For me, making FHIR free was non-threatening because FHIR is not a contributor to the bottom line today, and because the other standards would continue to function as they did. Making the other standards free, well, that changes things. The FAQ link above says:
What is the expected impact of licensing HL7′s IP free of charge in terms of membership?
We anticipate that the decision to remove cost barriers will increase membership within HL7. In the U.S., for example, HL7 standards are integral to Meaningful Use. The need for industry input on the HL7 standards selected for Meaningful Use Stage 2 is one significant factor that will help drive increases in both membership and HL7 member participation, which is crucial to making our standards easier to use.
Note: This is a guest post from Lloyd McKenzie, a follow up to my previous post. These are not necessarily my opinions, though I sort of generally agree. I’ll happily post other guest posts on this subject if people submit them to me.
I’m going to be a bit more blunt than Grahame.
I don’t object to HL7 content being free to non-members, but I’m hugely nervous (using polite words, seeing as this is a public blog) about the potential outcomes and the timing of the announcement. Specifically I’m concerned about the announcement of a decision with huge consequences for the viability and direction of the organization with a side note that “we’re still working out the details”.
This is not an announcement that’s reversible. If HL7 changes its mind, we lose all market credibility, so we’re now in the position of having to release the IP for free whether we can come up with a viable business model or not. And from the sounds of things, the viable business model is part of the details to be worked out. That doesn’t seem like wise planning in my books.
However, for better or worse, the decision’s now been made. Given that I have a strong intellectual, emotional and financial attachment to the HL7 organization and would like to see it succeed for many more years, it becomes all the more important to figure out what a viable business model could look like. There’s not a lot of time to get this right because the revenue stream from the old business model is going to start drying up tomorrow (regardless of the fact that the change to IP rights won’t take effect for “months”).
This guest blog is going to be a bit longer than a blog entry probably ought to be. That’s because the issues here aren’t simple. (If they were, HL7 would have adopted a new business model long ago.) My intention is to get a discussion started now so that we can make good progress at the WGM and move quickly from the analysis stage to the implementation stage.