How the new “FHIR” standard will ignite interoperability

By Transcend Insights
FHIR, Interoperability
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How the new “FHIR” standard will ignite interoperability

FHIR, a new, web-based technology interoperability standard, has the potential to usher in a new era of health care based on information sharing at the data level.

“True interoperability, not just exchange.” That’s how National Coordinator for Health Information Technology Karen DeSalvo recently stated the federal government’s new strategic goal for the American health care system.

True interoperability, DeSalvo said, will power fundamental changes in population health management, enable the industry to shift from fee-for-service to a value-based care delivery model and ensure that “health data is available for consumers, for our doctors, for everyone, when and where it matters the most.”

How do you get to true interoperability? One new approach with a lot of momentum behind it is Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR), a new, web-based technology interoperability standard, sponsored by Health Level-7 (HL7). While previous options focused on exchanging documents to coordinate care among di erent providers, FHIR takes a data-level accessibility approach using Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) to send and receive detailed pieces of clinical information among disparate systems. The new FHIR standard creates an ecosystem of interoperability with plug-and-play capabilities that will help advance the quality and coordination of care, increase e ciency and reduce costs to improve population health outcomes.

Meet FHIR, the new interoperability standard

Health care systems in the United States relied heavily on HL7v2 (and to a lesser extent, HL7v3) to move from an environment in which patient information was virtually unsharable in the 1990s to one in which exchange has become the norm. By 2014, about 75 percent of U.S. non-federal acute care hospitals were exchanging data with outside providers.2

This was a big achievement. The earlier HL7 standards were complex and health care-speci c. “In order to perform interoperability of documents and patient summary records, there were more than 5,000 pages of speci cation to work with,” said George Morris, vice president of software engineering at Transcend Insights, who has more than 25 years of industry experience. “That’s a real, huge challenge for implementers.”

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