Healthcare analytics is a growing area for companies looking to streamline workflows and cut costs. One way to do this is by leveraging healthcare interoperability standards.
FHIR is a standard for data exchange that uses modern web technologies developers already know. The standard was developed by HL7, an American National Standards Institute-accredited nonprofit organization with members that include some of the largest EHR vendors and healthcare providers.
What is FHIR?
FHIR provides a set of standardized resources for exchanging healthcare data. As the building blocks of a healthcare information system, these atomic data elements can be exchanged between different healthcare systems to enable interoperability.
Any EHR platform can access healthcare applications built on the FHIR framework because the specifications are portable and independent of the underlying infrastructure. This is similar to how users worldwide can access the same website using a standard web browser on any device and operating system, regardless of the underlying software or hardware.
A key feature of FHIR in healthcare is that it complies with healthcare data privacy and security regulations, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). This ensures that patient information remains secure during transmission between systems.
In addition, FHIR facilitates a seamless transfer of data to and from a patient’s healthcare team. It frees data from back-office systems and allows for a single experience for patients, providers, specialists, laboratories, insurers, and other stakeholders. It also improves patient outcomes by providing a comprehensive view of their clinical information.
FHIR is based on previous HL7 data formats standards like v2 and v3. It simplifies those formats without sacrificing information integrity, making connecting healthcare applications easy. It also provides a more modern suite of API technology.
Its standardized design allows software engineers to easily adapt the platform to users’ administrative and business needs, reducing development time. This flexible system also supports multiple paradigms and architectures, making implementing new technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning easier.
Unlike C-CDA, which was specific to clinical data, FHIR can describe all kinds of resources, documents and services and is more flexible. It also breaks down the document into smaller units called “resources” that can be used individually or bundled into clinical documents. It also offers a more standard way to describe those resources’ attributes and explain how they can be used, referred to as a “profile.” Akana’s expertise in FHIR is well-positioned to help your organization adopt the standard and accelerate digital transformation.
HL7’s FHIR standard provides an alternative to document-centric data exchange methods, creating a real-time Representational State Transfer (RESTful) application programming interface platform. This makes it easier for healthcare applications to share information and allows developers to create apps faster.
The core of the FHIR architecture is its resources, packets that contain information to be exchanged or stored. They are based on standards for expressing data, with human-readable descriptions and common and resource-specific metadata to describe how the data can be used. These are known as “references.” Additional scenarios appearing in specific healthcare domains are supported through profiling.
FHIR also makes it easier for developers to create healthcare apps that connect with other apps, systems and devices using an incredibly flexible open specification. This is important because the healthcare industry relies on connectivity to enable everything from sharing medical records to providing data for eCQM reporting.
FHIR profiles enable specific healthcare requirements to be addressed. These could be related to jurisdictions, legislations and organizational practices. The profile mechanism allows for a subset of the FHIR specifications to be used for different scenarios, addressing all the necessary elements of data exchanged.
Each FHIR profile is a set of rules that handle how a resource is processed and what information it captures. It also enables the specification of the extensions and constraints added to resources and complex data types.
FHIR provides a smooth pathway for healthcare providers to connect third-party applications, making it easier for patients to see their health records.
Developing and implementing a profile requires healthcare developers to work closely with HL7, the organization that created FHIR. However, some ready-made standard profiles can be used for various healthcare projects. These include the US core and Carin Blue Button implementation guides. The profiles are based on the FHIR specifications and can be used in R4 FHIR stores.
The healthcare industry is on the verge of a massive transformation, thanks to ONC’s recent Cures Act Final Rule mandating FHIR interoperability. This standard will make it easier for public health to access data and drive decision-making while improving patient outcomes.
FHIR is a flexible, easy-to-use, and comprehensive system that will improve the ability of healthcare systems to communicate with each other. It is based on a set of standards developed by HL7, a nonprofit standard development organization, and uses modern web-based suite API technology, including HTTP and JSON.
Developers can use this new, common language to create apps that connect with and utilize existing EHRs. As a result, patients will benefit from the improved ability to exchange medical records between healthcare providers and their devices.
Currently, connecting different applications to the same EHR takes time and effort. For example, a healthcare app developer might have to build different versions of its software for each of the most popular EHR systems to make it work with one single client system.