FHIR: A New Path Towards Healthcare Interoperability

The Digital Framework of tablets depicts the interoperability agenda

healthcare organizations in today’s marketplace are striving towards finding
the right key to interoperability among disparate electronic health record
(EHR) systems. What today’s physicians are looking for? They need the
capability to easily exchange healthcare data effectively to improve care
coordination, which could prompt better patient outcomes and potentially lower
costs. But the current strategies used to exchange data have fallen short. 

Health information exchange networks have not spread
widely, and a strategy for secure messaging that utilizes Internet conventions
has not yet gotten on with a minimum amount of suppliers. Even when healthcare
providers do exchange data, it is usually in the form of PDF care summaries. 

Fast Health Interoperability Resources (FHIR), a new standard framework promises to change all of that by creating plug-ins for EHRs without the need for interfaces. FHIR-based APIs, when they’re fully developed, could allow providers to pull discrete data from EHRs other than their own; could enable consumers to use data from their electronic records in mobile health apps or store it in personal health records; and could expand the capabilities of EHRs by enabling providers to select apps that provide features not present in their EHRs. 

However, some EHR vendors are racing to build
FHIR-enabled products. Both they and outside developers are starting to create
plug-in apps. Also, healthcare providers are getting more excited about the
capability of FHIR to increase data liquidity and improve the convenience of


FHIR Is Everywhere: For Sharing And Exchanging Data

From top healthcare vendors to federal organizations in
the nation, in the country, nearly everyone with a stake in the world of
healthcare data seems to have agreed that FHIR’s internet-based approach to
sharing and exchanging information offers the most tangible promise for accomplishing
the business’ objectives of consistent interoperability and patient-focused,
data-driven care.

HL7 FHIR Resources

FHIR uses snippets of data known as “resources” to
represent clinical domains within EHRs, such as diagnoses and medications, and
other clinical entities. These resources can be built on top of normalized data
types and are utilized in a Restful API like those that application designers
as of now use over the Internet.

Health Level 7 (HL7), the leading standards development
organization in health care, has recognized FHIR as a draft standard and has
identified 99 FHIR resources. To specify these resources, HL7’s members should
have to make profiles for each of them — along and strenuous procedure.



FHIR alone cannot give developers all the components they
need to write apps for EHRs. It can translate clinical data into objects that
apps can use, but an app developer also needs to know the restraints on
vocabularies and how the data will be coded. To give these missing pieces and a
graphical UI, FHIR is being utilized with an open, standard-based stage known
as Substitutable Medical Applications and Reusable Technology (SMART).

From the viewpoint of SMART app developers, FHIR is a
building block for clinical data. Several SMART on FHIR apps is displayed on
SMART’s website. Some of them are already being used in large healthcare
organizations that have built their FHIR-enabled servers. 

How FHIR Benefit The Developers?

Traditionally, the incompatibility of different EHRs has
made it difficult and expensive for developers to write clinical decision
support apps for use with leading systems. FHIR reshapes this landscape, making
it easier for developers to build apps that integrate with leading EHRs to
improve medical decision making and lead to better outcomes. 

For developers, FHIR offers several advantages, including
reuse and composability, scalability, performance, usability, and data
fidelity. FHIR apps can be easily implemented using industry standards and
common markup and data exchange technologies. These apps can be connected to
any FHIR-enabled EHR or clinical solution, giving clinicians access to specific
information from within their EHR while delivering patient care.

Integration Between EHR: A Challenge For Physicians Today

When SMART on FHIR serves as the basis for exchanging
health information between providers, this might be done in either or both of
two ways. In one scenario, hospitals and doctors could use the FHIR API to
extract data from the EHRs of other providers, perhaps on a cloud-based
platform. Alternatively, patients could make used of the effective apps to
download their health information to personal health records (PHRs) stored in
the cloud. After that, they can decide which information to share with particular
providers, family members, or others. 

Today most of the patients expect their healthcare
providers and hospitals to store their health data and allow them to access it
through a portal. However, patients with serious chronic diseases are more
interested in making sure that their records are shared among providers.

Clinicians may be aware of new studies that are relevant
to their patients, but fail to consider the evidence unless it is presented to
them in their clinical workflow. The lack of integration between electronic
health record (EHR) systems and the latest clinical evidence creates a
challenge for physicians.


FHIR For Better Healthcare Delivery

To overcome this challenge, providers need solutions that drive evidence-based content to the point of care for clinical decision making. For developers of clinical decision support applications, this challenge may represent an exciting opportunity, thanks to the growing use of Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR), the new standards framework from HL7. The FHIR API makes it easier than ever for healthcare providers and developers to leverage evidence-based content to help their organizations improve the delivery of care across a variety of settings, from ambulatory and inpatient care to post-acute and home care.

About The Author

Author: Pandi Paramasivan
Website: https://in.linkedin.com/in/pandians

Pandi is the founder and CEO of CapMinds, a cutting-edge healthtech company dedicated to empowering individuals to take control of their well-being. Under his 13 years of leadership, CapMinds has completed more than 100 healthcare projects that include customization and integration for OpenEMR, HL7 FHIR, Mirth Connect, Telehealth, Remote Patient Monitoring, Connected Health, and more.

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