Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources, better known as FHIR, is a protocol for data exchange and is fast emerging as a tool for true interoperability in the medical space. The standard was created by the Health Level Seven International (HL7) health-care standards organization. It focuses on implementability and is built from a set of modular components called “Resources”. These resources can easily be assembled into working systems that solve real world clinical and administrative problems at a fraction of the price of existing alternatives. FHIR is suitable for use in a wide variety of contexts – mobile phone apps, cloud communications, EHR-based data sharing, server communication, etc.
At the HIMSS16 (Healthcare Information and Management Systems) conference Karen DeSalvo, Acting Assistant Secretary for Health in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, announced three developer challenges stating that they were “an opportunity for the federal government to engage private sector entrepreneurs in building technologies that make more effective use of health data for patient-centric care.”
The Interoperability Proving Ground (IPG) is an open, community platform where you can share, learn, and be inspired by interoperability projects taking place across the nation. As of March 10, there were currently 61 projects in the IPG’s central hub. While not all the projects are related to FHIR, many of the projects focus on integrating standards-based apps to enable a reliable pathway of data.
A major challenge for healthcare standards is how to handle variability caused by such diverse healthcare processes. And as patients move around the healthcare ecosystem, their electronic health records must be available, discoverable, and understandable by all different types of applications. FHIR aims to simplify implementation without sacrificing the integrity of information.
As EHRs grow and as electronic medical records (EMRs) continue to grow, interoperability is of key importance. Interoperability refers to systems that allow providers to share data among different practitioners, insurers, billing/scheduling systems and health information exchanges improving quality of patient care, improving efficiency of reporting and data filing, and making life saving information more readily available.