Open standards are common in the technology sphere. Countless standard-setting bodies regularly strive to create interoperability standards that the entire industry can follow, ensuring consistency in data integration and exchange. The healthcare industry is a highly data-driven landscape with heaps of patient data regularly recorded, stored and shared for healthcare delivery purposes. With the rise in communication technology, the need and functionality of cross-system interoperability are becoming more eminent than ever in the healthcare industry.
Usually, patient data is fragmented in the practitioner’s office, hindering the smooth flow of information from one system to another. With the advent of electronic health records (EHR), direct, system-to-system portability and data exchange became possible. However, due to the disparities in different healthcare systems, seamless integration was still a distant reality. In 1987, Health Level Seven (HL7) emerged as a healthcare data interoperability standards-setting body.
Since its inception, HL7 has introduced various formats and standards for healthcare data sharing, including the HL7 v2 and v3. Both of these standards, however, had limitations and didn’t encompass all clinical applications. As a result, vendors developed their own APIs and standards to support data sharing across platforms, making the overall healthcare data sharing process incoherent and inconsistent.
The latest standard introduced by HL7 is the Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR). FHIR is developed to ease data sharing and exchange in the healthcare industry and simplify integration without compromising data integrity. In this article, we will discuss FHIR, its benefits and its role in interoperability.
FHIR is an interoperability standard that aims to harmonize and instill consistency in data sharing processes in the healthcare industry across computers and networks. FHIR helps simplify system integrations and provides application programming interfaces (API) support to facilitate better interoperability. FHIR defines resources like EHRs, patient treatment history, diagnostic records etc in a consistently structured format that can be easily integrated into different systems as well as interpreted by humans. With FHIR defining the rules and standards for sharing healthcare data, the exchange and interchange of patient information become very fast, efficient and effective. Patient data can now flow smoothly through different EHR systems and vendor applications without incompatibility issues. FHIR sets a framework for resource formatting, enabling systems to interpret data quickly. FHIR can be leveraged in various applications, including mobile applications, cloud communication, EHR systems and hospital management systems.
Industries nowadays are shifting to a consumer-centric approach as the competition and consumer demands keep increasing. The healthcare industry is no different. Patients are at the heart of every big and small healthcare activity, be it pertaining to administration, innovation or management. With the rapid digitization of operational processes in the healthcare system, the need for accumulating, analyzing and storing the sprawling patient data is more prevalent than ever. Patient data has become the foundation of high-calibre clinical decisions and to a good effect. By basing treatment decisions on highly accurate and real-time patient data, physicians can drastically improve patient outcomes. However, for patient data to be easily accessible, interpretable and manageable by specialists, it needs to be available in a standardized format. FHIR is important as it has made healthcare data exchange and interoperability very quick and efficient. With the help of FHIR, physicians and care providers can access patient data much faster and analyze it through automated technologies like machine learning and artificial intelligence.
The benefits of FHIR for patients, as well as providers, abound. For patients, FHIR has made managing personal health records very convenient and secure. Using applications built according to the FHIR standard, patients can collect, collate, store and share their healthcare data across systems with a simple touch of a button. Patients can manage a highly detailed personal health record containing data about their overall medical history, diagnosis reports, medication plans, known allergies etc. Furthermore, when a patient consults a clinician, the updates in their treatment regime and other tweaks will directly appear on their PHR without the need for inputting all the details manually. It’s on the patient to decide where their healthcare data will flow. For providers and healthcare practices, FHIR has facilitated data accessibility to a great extent. If a healthcare specialist wants to access a patient’s data that is stored in a separate EHR system, they can easily do so via the FHIR API capabilities. No need to perform complex technical operations to extract data from a particular platform when FHIR feeds the entire data set into your existing healthcare delivery system. Some more benefits of FHIR are as follows-
FHIR has revolutionized the data interoperability scenario in the healthcare industry. Usually, healthcare practices exchange data in a document-based format, which can be laborious and time and resource-consuming. To convert years of healthcare records into readable data sets, embeddable in a document, is an uphill task. Additionally, healthcare data in document form is burdensome for interpretation as it doesn’t come with any context and is isolated from the broad medical background of the patient. With the advent of FHIR, data can be retrieved directly from any EHR system and funneled to a healthcare organization’s existing care management program through the API support FHIR offers. In a nutshell, FHIR plays a pivotal role in making data interoperability very efficient and effective for the healthcare industry.
Health Wealth Safe is a preeminent healthcare solutions provider offering healthcare technology programs and applications compliant with the FHIR standard. We have recently launched our medical records bank, a consumer-centric application allowing users to store, manage and share the entirety of their healthcare data in a single location. Only the users will decide where their data will go. No need to fret about healthcare organizations disposing of your health records after a certain period when all your data is safely stored in HWS’ medical records bank. To know more about our products and services and our medical records bank, reach out now.