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FHIR Infrastructure Work GroupMaturity Level: 5Ballot Status: Normative

Normative Candidate Note: This page is candidate normative content for R4 in the Infrastructure Package. Once normative, it will lose it's Maturity Level, and breaking changes will no longer be made.

Reference
Standards StatusThis element has a standards status of "Normative" which is different from the status of the whole resource
Element IdReference
Definition

A reference from one resource to another.

Control1..1
TypeElement
Summarytrue
Comments

References SHALL be a reference to an actual FHIR resource, and SHALL be resolveable (allowing for access control, temporary unavailability, etc.). Resolution can be either by retrieval from the URL, or, where applicable by resource type, by treating an absolute reference as a canonical URL and looking it up in a local registry/repository.

Invariants
Defined on this element
ref-1Rule SHALL have a contained resource if a local reference is providedreference.startsWith('#').not() or (reference.substring(1).trace('url') in %resource.contained.id.trace('ids'))
Reference.reference
Element IdReference.reference
Definition

A reference to a location at which the other resource is found. The reference may be a relative reference, in which case it is relative to the service base URL, or an absolute URL that resolves to the location where the resource is found. The reference may be version specific or not. If the reference is not to a FHIR RESTful server, then it should be assumed to be version specific. Internal fragment references (start with '#') refer to contained resources.

Control0..1
Typestring
Summarytrue
Comments

Using absolute URLs provides a stable scalable approach suitable for a cloud/web context, while using relative/logical references provides a flexible approach suitable for use when trading across closed eco-system boundaries. Absolute URLs do not need to point to a FHIR RESTful server, though this is the preferred approach. If the URL conforms to the structure "/[type]/[id]" then it should be assumed that the reference is to a FHIR RESTful server.

Invariants
Affect this element
ref-1Rule SHALL have a contained resource if a local reference is providedreference.startsWith('#').not() or (reference.substring(1).trace('url') in %resource.contained.id.trace('ids'))
Reference.type
Element IdReference.type
Definition

The expected type of the target of the reference. If both Reference.type and Reference.reference are populated and Reference.reference is a FHIR URL, both SHALL be consistent.

The type is the Canonical URL of Resource Definition that is the type this reference refers to. References are URLs that are relative to http://hl7.org/fhir/StructureDefinition/ e.g. "Patient" is a reference to http://hl7.org/fhir/StructureDefinition/Patient. Absolute URLs are only allowed for logical models (and can only be used in references in logical models, not resources).

Control0..1
Terminology BindingResourceType (Extensible)
Typeuri
Summarytrue
Comments

This element is used to indicate the type of the target of the reference. This may be used which ever of the other elements are populated (or not). In some cases, the type of the target may be determined by inspection of the reference (e.g. a RESTful URL) or by resolving the target of the reference; if both the type and a reference is provided, the reference SHALL resolve to a resource of the same type as that specified.

Reference.identifier
Element IdReference.identifier
Definition

An identifier for the target resource. This is used when there is no way to reference the other resource directly, either because the entity it represents is not available through a FHIR server, or because there is no way for the author of the resource to convert a known identifier to an actual location. There is no requirement that a Reference.identifier point to something that is actually exposed as a FHIR instance, but it SHALL point to a business concept that would be expected to be exposed as a FHIR instance, and that instance would need to be of a FHIR resource type allowed by the reference.

NoteThis is a business identifer, not a resource identifier (see discussion)
Control0..1
TypeIdentifier
Summarytrue
Comments

When an identifier is provided in place of a reference, any system processing the reference will only be able to resolve the identifier to a reference if it understands the business context in which the identifier is used. Sometimes this is global (e.g. a national identifier) but often it is not. For this reason, none of the useful mechanisms described for working with references (e.g. chaining, includes) are possible, nor should servers be expected to be able resolve the reference. Servers may accept an identifier based reference untouched, resolve it, and/or reject it - see CapabilityStatement.rest.resource.referencePolicy.

When both an identifier and a literal reference are provided, the literal reference is preferred. Applications processing the resource are allowed - but not required - to check that the identifier matches the literal reference

Applications converting a logical reference to a literal reference may choose to leave the logical reference present, or remove it.

Reference is intended to point to a structure that can potentially be expressed as a FHIR resource, though there is no need for it to exist as an actual FHIR resource instance - except in as much as an application wishes to actual find the target of the reference. The content referred to be the identifier must meet the logical constraints implied by any limitations on what resource types are permitted for the reference. For example, it would not be legitimate to send the identifier for a drug prescription if the type were Reference(Observation|DiagnosticReport). One of the use-cases for Reference.identifier is the situation where no FHIR representation exists (where the type is Reference (Any).

Reference.display
Element IdReference.display
Definition

Plain text narrative that identifies the resource in addition to the resource reference.

Control0..1
Typestring
Summarytrue
Comments

This is generally not the same as the Resource.text of the referenced resource. The purpose is to identify what's being referenced, not to fully describe it.