Health Level Seven, or HL7, has long served as the standard for health information exchange (HIE), but its limitations have left everyone in the healthcare field hoping for a better solution. Fortunately, there’s finally an answer: Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources, or FHIR. This new standard offers even more flexibility and efficiency, helping streamline healthcare data exchange. To see just why HL7 FHIR is the future, use this guide to learn all you need to know about HL7 and FHIR standards.
What is HL7 FHIR?
HL7 FHIR is a health data exchange standard developed by Health Level Seven International. The development of this standard began in 2012 when FHIR inventor Grahame Grieve asked what a modernized health information exchange would look like.
Through that lens, his development team created a new standard that could allow for rapid yet secure data delivery across healthcare applications. The process started with the HL7 v2 message framework, which was then elevated by an application programming interface, or API. Internet technologies like JSON and HTTP fueled the build even more, creating a standard that software developers could easily adopt.
A Look at FHIR vs HL7
For several decades, all healthcare information exchange systems used HL7 as their standard of choice. This standard has continually evolved through the years, moving from its basic iteration to HL7 v3. Despite the updates, HL7 messages remain rather complex, so it’s relatively difficult for software developers to implement. Healthcare organizations often struggle to achieve interoperability between their systems as a result.
FHIR aims to change all that by using modern web technologies that reduce the learning curve and allow for the faster creation of critical applications. The API used for FHIR is known as RESTful because it was designed around the Representational State Transfer (REST) architectural style. It’s much more efficient as a result since it allows for the exchange of granular data resources instead of full documents.
Why HL7 FHIR is the Future of Health Information Exchange
HL7 FHIR is the future of health information exchange because it opens the doors to rapid, intuitive healthcare software development. Overall, the sheer flexibility of the new standard promises to improve its adoption rate with developers while ensuring their programs can still work with older systems.
The new health information exchange process will also significantly improve the patient experience by leaps and bounds. Access to data at the granular level across multiple systems will facilitate providers’ ability to make well-informed patient care decisions. They will be better able to coordinate with other providers and offer their patients quality care and support at every step.
Examples of HL7 FHIR in Practice
Healthcare organizations all over the globe have already started using HL7 FHIR in their operations. The Mayo Clinic, for example, uses FHIR to boost the functionality of its electronic health record, or EHR, system. Their providers rely on fast data delivery to coordinate care with other providers and facilitate excellent patient outcomes.
Apple Health uses HL7 FHIR to allow its users to transfer data from their health data tracking apps to their healthcare team. Their providers can then review the data as needed to provide personalized care to their patients. Patients enjoy a higher quality of care while their healthcare providers are able to create more efficient workflows.
PrognoCIS also uses FHIR to boost the interoperability of our cloud-based EHR software and facilitate the secure exchange of data between a variety of healthcare applications. In addition, we have an FHIR-based API available, which allows software developers to create third-party apps that easily integrate with our EHR system.
Implementation Challenges for HL7 FHIR
Although many healthcare organizations are making the switch to HL7 FHIR, it’s not always an easy road forward. There are many implementation challenges to consider when adopting this newly developed standard, such as:
- System Updates: If your organization uses legacy systems, you must invest time, money, and effort to integrate FHIR or upgrade to a modern system.
- Staff Training: Your healthcare providers and other staff members will need training and support to get used to the new standard and use the upgraded system to the fullest.
- Data Quality: Each healthcare system is only as good as the inputted data, so you must adequately train providers on how to add accurate and complete info.
By addressing each challenge, you can move through the implementation process and achieve your goals. Your efforts will help streamline provider workflows, improve the patient experience, and bring many more benefits your way.
Benefits of Updating to the HL7 FHIR Standard
Adopting HL7 FHIR standards offers many incredible benefits to application developers, healthcare providers, and patients, including:
- Improved operability allows healthcare providers to share patients’ health data across various systems and applications to improve care collaboration.
- Fast data exchange rates facilitate real-time data sharing between providers, which helps boost the quality of care delivered to patients.
- Personal health management becomes much easier for patients as the new standard allows them to tap into data across a wide range of apps and systems.
- Patient outcomes improve as a result of your providers’ ability to effectively collaborate with the entire medical team and offer a higher standard of care.
- Software innovation grows as developers use the flexible, efficient FHIR standard to create healthcare applications that easily integrate with cloud-based EHR systems.
With a look at all these benefits, it’s clear that HL7 FHIR is poised to transform the healthcare industry. Each healthcare organization that makes the switch leads the way in ensuring more effective and efficient patient-centered care.
Ready to Move Forward with HL7 FHIR?
PrognoCIS leads the way in adopting HL7 FHIR and invites you to join us in this journey toward the future of health information exchange. Our cloud-based EHR system already uses FHIR to allow for the rapid delivery of health data across a variety of systems. We also have the FHIR API you need to create innovative apps for your practice and further support your patients in getting the highest quality of care. Ready to get started? Reach out today to learn more.