FHIR Community & Resources

Learning objectives
  1. Describe how to get involved or seek assistance from the FHIR community.
    Options for engaging with the FHIR community include HL7 Work Groups, Zulip (https://chat.fhir.org), and HL7 Connectathons.
Relevant roles:
  • Investigator
  • Informaticist
  • Software Engineer
  • Clinician Scientist/Trainee

1 Introduction

FHIR has an active community of users who engage in discussions and offer advice. This module will introduce you to the HL7® and FHIR community, offer suggestions on where to ask questions, and clarify the various touchpoints and engagement opportunities.

2 The HL7 FHIR community

The HL7 FHIR community consists of developers, maintainers, and implementers who engage with the FHIR specification. Community-members work in many environments including:

  • Clinical settings
  • Health-focused companies and non-profits
  • Local, state, and federal health agencies

Because FHIR is an open-source specification, most of HL7’s FHIR work is done publicly, and anyone may participate. The FHIR community also develops many Implementation Guides (IGs) that may be found at the FHIR Implementation Guide Registry with the same public approach.

This openness makes members of the community accessible to implementers and developers who want to:

  • Ask questions.
  • Follow the progress of work.
  • Contribute to the work through the channels described below.

2.1 HL7 Work Groups

HL7 specifications and many FHIR Implementation Guides are developed as HL7 Projects. HL7 Projects are efforts that are developed under the guidance of one or more HL7 Work Groups.

Work Groups are:

…the bodies within HL7 that take on responsibility for developing and maintaining standards. They are where the “work” of HL7 gets done. HL7 has many work groups covering the spectrum of the healthcare space. All work groups are open to participation by anyone with an interest in their content.

HL7 Work Groups consist of subject matter experts and other stakeholders. Each Work Group has a mailing list that may be joined to communicate with the Work Group, including asking for time on an upcoming conference call. Work Groups also post conference call agendas on their Confluence sites (see the Work Group directory for Confluence links).

Each Work Group lists their associated projects. Work Groups typically meet on a weekly basis for a conference call. There is a core leadership team for each Work Group that facilitates meetings. Attendees vary depending on agenda content.

Work Groups also meet in-person or hybrid at HL7 Working Group Meetings, which are held three times per year.

Getting started with Work Groups

The fastest way to get started in a Work Group is to join its conference call and ask to introduce yourself.

Alternatively (or additionally), join the Work Group’s mailing list and reach out to the group’s leadership to introduce yourself. You may also use the mailing list to request future agenda items.

Tips for attending Work Group meetings:

  • Ask to be on the agenda ahead of the meeting to get specific questions addressed.

  • Be prepared to discuss your agenda item(s). Agendas are available ahead of the meeting on the Work Group’s Confluence page.

  • Share your expertise. To ensure that new projects and specifications may be used by the community, Work Groups require input from a variety of stakeholders.

2.2 Zulip (chat.fhir.org)

Zulip (chat.fhir.org) is an asynchronous communication platform like Slack or Teams messaging. Anyone may join. The platform is a valuable resource for asking questions and connecting with others with similar projects or objectives.

Zulip has “streams” (like “channels” on Slack) for general topics like Implementation Guide development and Terminology, as well as domain-specific topics like Cancer Interoperability. Users post comments or questions inside a stream, and others respond. You may find applicable streams by searching for a topic or browsing through the stream list.

Getting started with Zulip

Before using Zulip, review HL7’s community expectations.

If you have a question and don’t know which stream to post it in, the #implementers stream is a good place to start.

Other useful streams to subscribe to include:

  • #Announcements: posts with new streams, releases of new versions of specifications, and ballot updates

  • #implementers: discussion about implementing FHIR resources

  • #analytics on FHIR: useful for those using FHIR interfaces and APIs for data analytics

  • #social: general discussion about the FHIR community with the occasional fun update from a community member

2.3 HL7 FHIR Connectathons

HL7 FHIR Connectathons are events that connect contributors and community members to test FHIR technology. HL7 describes a Connectathon as:

…an event that is centered on developing the HL7 FHIR Specification including resources, profiles and implementation guides. The purpose of a Connectathon is to prove that the specification is complete and facilitate FHIR implementation guide maturity.

Three Connectathons are held each year, either as in-person events or as virtual meetings. Anyone may attend as a participant or submit a proposal to be a Track Lead. Connectathon Track Leads share their specification or resource for implementers to test and offer feedback. A complete list of the Tracks is posted before the Connectathon. You may also view offerings from previous Connectathons.

Getting started

Find information about upcoming Connectathons on HL7’s Connectathon events page or the Connectathon Confluence page.

The Connectathon FAQs provide information on requirements to participate.

First time attendees must watch the FHIR Training for Beginners Newcomer Orientation.

Each Connectathon hosts a virtual Participant Information Session several weeks before the event. The Participant Information Session includes information about which Tracks are available, how to connect with Track Leads, and how to prepare your sandbox environment for testing. For an example of what to expect, a recording of the January 2023 Connectathon Participant Information Session is available, as well as the check lists for attendees and Track Leads.

2.4 FHIR Accelerators

In addition to developing the FHIR standard, HL7 has a FHIR Accelerator program to “assist communities and collaborative groups across the global health care spectrum in the creation and adoption of high quality FHIR Implementation Guides or other standard artifacts to move toward the realization of global health data interoperability.”

FHIR Accelerators drive adoption of FHIR for specific use cases, including:

  • CodeX: Standardizing cancer data

  • Da Vinci: Establishing a process for addressing value-based care delivery

  • Gravity: Standardizing social determinants of health

  • Helios: Obtaining data for public health via FHIR

  • Vulcan: Obtaining data for research via FHIR

Researchers may be especially interested in Vulcan. This presentation from FHIR DevDays 2022 provides an overview of Vulcan’s current activity (PDF slides):

More information on the FHIR to OMOP project that is part of Vulcan can be found here.

3 HL7 FHIR resources

3.1 HL7 Confluence

Documentation on HL7 processes and general information is typically found in the HL7 Confluence site. Confluence is a Wikipedia-like documentation website for HL7. Many of the links throughout this module go to HL7 Confluence pages. The site is useful for finding:

  • HL7 projects in development
  • Schedules and information for HL7 Work Groups
  • Processes and documentation for HL7 and FHIR infrastructure

The Confluence site also includes tips on getting involved and implementor support.

3.2 HL7 Jira

Project work and specification development primarily occurs in HL7 Jira. The site is an issue-tracking resource used for managing comments and suggestions on HL7 specifications and terminologies. This includes the core FHIR specification and FHIR IGs developed with HL7 Work Group oversight.

3.3 FHIR Community Forum

While the FHIR Community Forum is no longer active as a discussion platform, the posts have been archived for historical reference. You will find posts to previous questions like:

  • How do I do [x]? where [x] is any kind of use of FHIR at all
  • Has anyone solved [my problem] with the specification? (Or is anyone interested in this?)
  • Why does FHIR work like it does?
  • What does everyone think about [making some change to the FHIR specification]?

The FHIR Community Forum is no longer used or monitored. All discussion has transitioned to Zulip (chat.fhir.org).

3.4 StackOverflow on FHIR

StackOverflow is a third-party forum for asking and answering technical questions. HL7 FHIR is one of the topics discussed on StackOverflow, in addition to many other technologies unrelated to health. Use the hl7-fhir tag for developer and programming questions about reference FHIR implementations.