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    Apr, 2024

    Embracing FHIR (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources): Pioneering Interoperability for Enhanced Healthcare Outcomes

    Alan Koo | Ingenia Health

    Written by: Alan Koo

    Embracing FHIR (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources): Pioneering Interoperability for Enhanced Healthcare Outcomes

    Interoperability is the cornerstone of modern healthcare IT, enabling organizations to amass extensive data on each individual. For simplification, interoperability in this context means that healthcare organizations can share data related to their membership or patients, who can receive services from different healthcare providers (all of this under the appropriate security clearance). This is critical for crafting precise healthcare quality measures and interventions.


    FHIR, an HL7 specification for healthcare interoperability, facilitates access to electronic health records across disparate health organizations and brings standardization and universality that was previously unattainable. FHIR goes beyond traditional data and data sources even supporting devices as your own smart watch. This broadens the scope of data ingestion, significantly reducing latency and enabling organizations to close care gaps more swiftly. With FHIR, the potential to enhance patient care and outcomes by accessing a wider array of data sources is unprecedented.


    The adoption of FHIR by the health industry marks a significant departure from previous attempts at universal standards, which often failed due to their complexity, lack of flexibility, and inability to keep pace with the fast-evolving nature of healthcare data and technology. FHIR, on the other hand, is designed to be intuitive, scalable, and adaptable, supporting a wide range of health data applications and services. Its success lies in its approach to data interoperability, leveraging web standards and a modular architecture that allows for easier integration and faster innovation compared to its predecessors. A good example is that all the major tech vendors including Microsoft, Google, Amazon, and Apple also provide FHIR solutions.


    FHIR is not static; it is continuously evolving to better meet the complex needs of the healthcare industry. The first three releases since 2012 were considered for trial usage only. Currently, in its fifth release (R5), FHIR is on a path of rapid development, with R6 anticipated in 2026.


    A FHIR resource is a fundamental building block in FHIR, representing data elements and entities such as patients, encounters, and observations. A key aspect of FHIR’s releases is the maturity model for its resources. As FHIR evolves, these resources progress through levels of maturity, from draft proposals to normative standards that are stable and universally implemented. In R5, 30 new resources have achieved normative status, signifying their reliability and broad acceptance across the healthcare IT ecosystem.


    Another important concept in FHIR is the Implementation Guides (IGs). IGs provide detailed instructions on how FHIR resources should be used for specific contexts or problems, ensuring that data-sharing protocols are standardized, secure, and efficient across different systems and organizations. IGs are the key to providing flexibility and extensibility on top of the standard FHIR. US Core Data for Interoperability (USCDI) and CARIN Blue Button, are key IGs in the United States.


    However, harnessing the full power of FHIR and interoperability requires a solid commitment from healthcare organizations to invest in the necessary infrastructure and processes. It’s an investment in the future of healthcare—a future where decisions are informed by comprehensive data, leading to improved health outcomes.


    At Ingenia Health, we’ve had the privilege to navigate through the evolving landscape of healthcare data interoperability. Our core mission revolves around helping our clients close health gaps for their membership, providing them with powerful analytics and action-driven reports around healthcare quality measures from national and local measure stewards, including NCQA, PQA, and CMS. Our mission is greatly empowered by the introduction of FHIR playing a pivotal role in this ecosystem.


    The continuous evolution of FHIR, marked by its releases and the maturity of its resources, demonstrates its commitment to meeting the complex needs of the healthcare industry. As organizations like Ingenia Health leverage FHIR to close health gaps and achieve healthcare quality measures, it becomes clear that the journey toward full interoperability is not just a technical endeavor but a collaborative effort towards a future where healthcare decisions are informed by comprehensive, real-time data, leading to significantly improved patient outcomes.


    If you will like to receive a free initial consultation on FHIR from one of our expert resources, please contact us via: .


    References and resources:

    FHIR website from HL7: fhir.org

    FHIR Fact Sheets | HealthIT.gov: https://www.healthit.gov/topic/standards-technology/standards/fhir-fact-sheets

    US Core Implementation Guide: HL7.FHIR.US.CORE\Home – FHIR v4.0.1

    CARIN Blue Button Implementation Guide: HL7.FHIR.US.CARIN-BB\Home – FHIR v4.0.1