HL7 FHIR, the Future of Health Information Exchange?

March 24th, 2016 - By Kevin V. Nguyen

HL7 FHIR is a draft standard developed by HL7 with the goal of streamlining the data exchange process

  • It makes use of a module-based approach with its “Resources”. Resources are specific amounts of information which when combined, make up an entire clinical record. HL7 FHIR allows healthcare systems to exchange Resources as opposed to whole records.
  • HL7 FHIR allows clinics to receive information quickly and efficiently because of its module-based approach

Yesterday marked the 6-year anniversary of the Affordable Care Act. While the law has seen its fair share of opposition, the statistics are undeniable: more than 90% of Americans have healthcare, and 14.3 million jobs have been added to the economy. With such a large increase in the number of insured, new innovative solutions are needed to manage the tide of new patients. HL7 FHIR represents a way to streamline the data exchange process, making it easier for clinics to process data.

HL7 FHIR (pronounced fire), or Fast Health Interoperability Resources is one of the hottest topics in health care. HL7 FHIR is a proposed interoperability standard that promises to provide the next level of electronic health data exchange with its modern application-based approach. Here’s our breakdown of everything related to HL7 FHIR.

What is HL7 and How Does It Relate to FHIR?

Let’s take a step back, what is HL7? HL7 is two things: an organization and an interoperability standard.

HL7 the organization stands for Health Level 7 International, and describes itself as “a not-for-profit, ANSI-accredited standards developing organization dedicated to providing a comprehensive framework and related standards for the exchange, integration, sharing, and retrieval of electronic health information that supports clinical practice and the management, delivery and evaluation of health services “. Their standards are the most used in the world, and, you guessed it, their standards are called HL7.

HL7 the standard refers to Health Level 7, an interoperability standard developed by the organization (with the same acronym). The standards are guidelines and methods healthcare systems use to exchange data with one another. Health Level 7 comes in many versions such as HL7 Version 2 or HL7 CDA—different versions which provide different standards for different services.

How does FHIR relate to any of this?

According to HL7’s website, FHIR is “a next-generation standards framework created by HL7. FHIR combines the best features of HL7’s v2 , HL7 v3, and CDA  product lines while leveraging the latest web standards and applying a tight focus on implementation.”

FHIR’s “Resources” and How It Benefits the Provider

In essence, FHIR is an efficient way for providers to exchange healthcare-related information in a variety of contexts, such as in-patient, ambulatory care, acute care, long-term care, community care, allied health, etc. The most important part about FHIR to providers is FHIR’s implementation through its Resources. Resources are similar to, as they state on their website, “paper ‘forms’ reflecting different types of clinical and administrative information that can be captured and shared.” FHIR designates a template for each Resource or “form “.

FHIR’s Resources makes it easier for systems to exchange very specific amounts of data, “each Resource defines a small amount of highly-focused data. A single resource doesn’t say very much, but a collection of Resources taken together creates a useful clinical record.”

Why is this important?

Government Health IT provides an interesting analysis on FHIR’s benefits. The common standard in health information technology today is HL7 CDA, where the protocols designate systems to send entire documents of data during a request. If a doctor needs specific information on a patient, systems must send entire documents to fulfill that request. Not only is this taxing on the system, doctors must scan through entire documents for one specific piece of information. With FHIR, each Resource can be sent without the entire clinical record. This allows for a faster and much more efficient exchange of health information.

FHIR With PrognoCIS

PrognoCIS is closely watching the development of FHIR. While currently in a draft stage, FHIR has the potential to be an elegant and simple solution to healthcare information exchange. With FHIR, PrognoCIS can streamline the way it manages data and improves workflow for providers.

Learn more about HL7 FHIR at their website.

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