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The PlanDefinition resource represents a pre-defined and approved group of activities to be performed related to a particular clinical condition (e.g. hypertension treatment and monitoring) or stage of care (e.g. hospital admission to Coronary Care Unit). The resource captures metadata about the plan definition, as well as a hierarchical grouping of any number of actions to be taken, each of which describes a specific activity to be performed.

The PlanDefinition resource is definitional in nature, it describes a patient-independent set of activities for a particular setting. In addition, the resource allows for behaviors to be defined for each action, as well as for relationships between the actions to be defined. Conditional logic describing how the plan definition is realized with respect to a particular context can be attached using the Library resource.

The intent of the resource is to establish a standard mechanism to enable automated sharing of knowledge artifacts such as order sets, protocols, and decision support rules. The resource is a concrete realization of the logical model defined by the HL7 Standard: Clinical Decision Support Knowledge Artifact Specification.

Owning committee name

Clinical Decision Support Work Group

Committee Approval Date:

  • 2016-07-06
  • STU3 Ballot Submission: 2016-08-03

Contributing or Reviewing Work Groups

FHIR Resource Development Project Insight ID

1234: FHIR-Based Clinical Quality Framework (CQF-on-FHIR)

Scope of coverage

A PlanDefinition is a knowledge artifact that enables the representation and sharing of pre-defined clinical activities. It differs from a CarePlan in that it is not specific to a given patient, rather it defines a set of activities that can be realized for a patient, resulting in a CarePlan.

PlanDefinitions can be used both within and between healthcare delivery environments, both as part of an catalog, as well as by content providers for sharing and distribution of order sets, protocols, and rules.

The resource is flexible enough to be used to describe plan definitions for any discipline and locale.

RIM scope

Resource appropriateness

Order sets are a key component of facilitating placement and fulfillment of orders related to specific conditions and workflows, but management of order sets is often built directly into healthcare delivery systems in a way that prevents sharing of the definitions. In addition, order set content providers often use proprietary formats to distribute their content, resulting in different implementations for each combination of consumer and provider systems.

The Clinical Decision Support Knowledge Artifact Specification provides a standard mechanism for representing order sets, and enabling that content to be represented as a FHIR resource will extend the reach of that specification. In addition, defining the content as a FHIR resource will allow implementers to use the FHIR stack and all its associated tooling and specifications to expose the content, effectively enabling another potential role of a FHIR server as Order Set Catalog.

The resource can also be used to model diverse types of protocols such as research protocols, specimen handling protocols, or disease treatment plans.

Expected implementations

Motive Medical Cognitive Medical Systems NCCN Plexina

Content sources

Example Scenarios

Low Suicide Risk

When assessing a patient for suicide risk, the actions that should be taken as a result of the assessment is defined as an order set.

Obesity Determination Protocol

Example of A medical algorithm for assessment and treatment of overweight and obesity

Research Protocols

Clinical trials and other types of research specify protocols to ensure the research produces valid data. The resource can be used to specify actions to be taken in the clinical trial.

Resource Relationships

This resource will make use of the Library resource to represent any logic involved in defining the behavior of the plan definition.

The resource will also make use of the ActivityDefinition resource to represent the detail for the activities involved in describing the plan definition.

In addition, the resource makes use of the following common data types:


September 2016 Ballot Cycle in support of the CQF IG.

gForge Users


When Resource Proposal Is Complete

When you have completed your proposal, please send an email to