InterSystems is making its HL7 FHIR integration components free to NHS customers through its Health Connect integration platform.

NHS organisations using Health Connect – available through InterSystems’s HealthShare informatics platform – will be able to take advantage of NHS FHIR profiles as they become available at no additional cost.

Jon Payne, manager of sales engineering at InterSystems, said: “Interoperability using the HL7 FHIR standard is the cornerstone around which the NHS will build the joined-up IT systems that it needs for integrated health and care.

“Any organisation with a supported version of Health Connect will be able to draw down these integration components free of charge.”

FHIR – or Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources, to give it its full name – is an international standard for exchanging information between different IT systems, developed by HL7 (Health Level 7) International.

It is being used alongside other open standards in national projects – most notably shared care record initiatives – to support the exchange of information between NHS IT systems.

Increasingly, UK healthcare IT suppliers are embracing interoperability through FHIR and SNOMED-CT, although there is still some way to go.

Matt Hancock has warned that vendors who don’t embrace data-sharing by adopting common standards could be dropped from future NHS contracts.

Amongst the components being made available by InterSystems is support for the Transfer of Care Initiative, which aims to promote the use of standards to send discharge letters and outpatient clinic letters from hospitals to GPs, as well as support for GP Connect, which supports the exchange of GP clinical information with other systems.

Specific components for other NHS use cases – including child health, eReferrals and Care Connect – will also be included, as will a FHIR adapter for NHS Digital’s Message Exchange for Social Care and Health (MESH) – the main messaging service used across health and social care.

Interoperability remains a key concern for NHS IT managers, who voted it their top priority for the second year running in the 2019 NHS IT Leadership Survey.