FHIR: Advancing Healthcare’s Epic Interoperability Storyline
By Andy McPherron, Director of Software Engineering
A little over three years ago, Transcend Insights’ software engineering team began leveraging Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) technology within its population health management platform, HealthLogix. Little did we know at the time that our use of FHIR would eventually become the industry standard.
To quote Star Wars creator, George Lucas, “a special effect is a tool, a means of telling a story. A special effect without a story is a pretty boring thing.” So, in terms of Transcend Insights’ space (no pun intended), data without structure isn’t remarkable because it is not actionable. But the addition of FHIR provides us with the events and gives us a way to link them to the story hospitals and physicians need to tell.
What FHIR Accomplishes
We often talk to healthcare organizations that have to take multiple unnecessary steps to carry out a single initiative. We can see their frustration, for example, when they have to pull numbers from an Excel spreadsheet and then copy and paste them into another system for further processing throughout their workflow.
In contrast, FHIR brings plug-and-play interoperability to healthcare. The standardized FHIR-based interface, which is foundational to Transcend Insights’ HealthLogix platform, allows us to provide analytics, to master patient reference and other capabilities that open up new possibilities for collaborating with data. By leveraging FHIR to make the right data available via a common exchange method, we’re eliminating a lot of headaches from everyday operations.
What’s more, by transforming scattered data into unique information, we’re bringing value to those who want to access it. Health system executives and policy makers may be looking for gaps in care or guidance for preventive measures, while frontline clinicians may want to know whether a treatment complies with a particular quality measure. In either case, the HealthLogix platform unifies the data in accordance with users’ distinctive needs.
Where FHIR Can Take Us
A key attribute of FHIR is its non-proprietary format. It’s a widely supported, well-defined, international standard. At the same time, FHIR gives our engineers flexibility within the context of the standard to quickly come up with interoperability solutions that would not have been possible a few years ago. We can import clinical, claims and electronic health record (EHR) data, for instance, and run rules against it, working from a common interface. Additionally, once a FHIR resource defines data, the interface can analyze it in many ways, such as by grouping patients according to geography, age, condition or treatment (even specific treatment code).
Transcend Insights’ FHIR-based interface also ensures a simple integration process with third-party technology. Within our platform, we capture the context of data and render it into a FHIR object or bundle of FHIR resources. As a result, if an outside system or application (app) is FHIR compliant, it will be able to connect with the HealthLogix platform to exchange information.
FHIR Lights the Way
Health system executives, care teams and individuals use Transcend Insights’ platform and enterprise solutions to analyze more than seven billion clinical data points on over 14 million patients every day.
We can expect those numbers to grow as the industry as a whole accelerates the use of FHIR. In February 2017, under the umbrella of Health Level Seven International (HL7) standards, which developed the FHIR specification, a group of high-profile vendors and providers published an implementation guide for top-priority data and document queries.
HL7 Chief Technology Officer Wayne Kubick recently noted that FHIR is already “much more mature than people realize.” He added, “It’s going to be like any app on your phone. You download something from an app store, and it just works.”
Along these lines, Transcend Insights has developed a suite of solutions for the HealthLogix platform, including apps that deliver facility performance comparisons, comprehensive patient data views at the point of care and enhanced engagement capabilities linking patients and care teams. We’re also setting up an open, scalable marketplace for third-party apps developed on HealthLogix.
As these enhancements unfold, we can say with certainty that FHIR is more than a flashy acronym. It’s an indispensable element in advancing healthcare’s epic interoperability storyline.
What possibilities do you envision with FHIR-based technology?