SMART App Launch
2.0.0 - Standard for Trial Use

This page is part of the Smart App Launch Implementation Guide (v2.0.0: STU 2) based on FHIR R4. This is the current published version. For a full list of available versions, see the Directory of published versions


This implementation guide describes a set of foundational patterns based on OAuth 2.0 for client applications to authorize, authenticate, and integrate with FHIR-based data systems. The patterns defined in this specification are introduced in the sections below.

Discovery of Server Capabilities and Configuration

SMART defines a discovery document available at .well-known/smart-configuration relative to a FHIR Server Base URL, allowing clients to learn the authorization endpoint URLs and features a server supports. This information helps client direct authorization requests to the right endpoint, and helps clients construct an authorization request that the server can support.

SMART Defines Two Patterns For Client Authorization

Authorization via SMART App Launch

Authorizes a user-facing client application (“App”) to connect to a FHIR Server. This pattern allows for “launch context” such as currently selected patient to be shared with the app, based on a user’s session inside an EHR or other health data software, or based on a user’s selection at launch time. Authorization allows for delegation of a user’s permissions to the app itself.

Authorization via SMART Backend Services

Authorizes a headless or automated client application (“Backend Service”) to connect to a FHIR Server. This pattern allows for backend services to connect and interact with an EHR when there is no user directly involved in the launch process, or in other circumstances where permissions are assigned to the client out-of-band.

SMART Defines Two Patterns For Client Authentication

When clients need to authenticate, this implementation guide defines two methods.

Note that client authentication is not required in all authorization scenarios, and not all SMART clients are capable of authenticating (see discussion of “Public Clients” in the SMART App Launch overview).

Asymmetric (“private key JWT”) authentication

Authenticates a client using an asymmetric keypair. This is SMART’s preferred authentication method because it avoids sending a shared secret over the wire.

Symmetric (“client secret”) authentication

Authenticate a client using a secret that has been pre-shared between the client and server

Scopes for Limiting Access

SMART uses a language of “scopes” to define specific access permissions that can be delegated to a client application. These scopes draw on FHIR API definitions for interactions, resource types, and search parameters to describe a permissions model. For example, an app might be granted scopes like user/, allowing it to read and search for Encounters that are accessible to the user who has authorized the app. Similarly, a backend service might be granted scopes like system/, allowing it to read and search for Encounters within the overall set of data it is configured to access. User-facing apps can also receive “launch context” to indicate details about the current patient or other aspects of a user’s EHR session or a user’s selections when launching the app.

Note that the scope syntax has changed since SMARTv1. Details are at Scopes for requesting clinical data.

Token Introspection

SMART defines a Token Introspection API allowing Resource Servers or software components to understand the scopes, users, patients, and other context associated with access tokens. This pattern allows a looser coupling between Resource Servers and Authorization Servers.