Across healthcare, providers, physicians, caregivers and individual patients benefit from secure and ready access to health data. Enabling healthcare data interoperability through the seamless transfer, exchange and access to clinical and healthcare data is essential for the future of healthcare and for the delivery of improved health outcomes.
Current challenges in healthcare data interoperability
Currently, health information and data interoperability are based on sharing documents electronically—whether by email fax or other means. Other strategies to collect reliable patient data through wearables or personal health tracking devices poses its own set of challenges due to medical device interoperability.
Sharing confidential healthcare data in electronic documents does work, but it is limited. C-CDA (Consolidated Clinical Document Architecture) documents work because they share common elements or templates for medical records, using standardized medical terms that make them readable. For example, documents in the C-CDA style are a default export format for certified US Electronic Health Records (EHRs).
But while sending electronic documents can convey the necessary information, extracting static data from these documents can be complicated and unusable when exported to other formats. In reality, using C-CDA formats presents its own compatibility issues because CDAs are only helpful for exchanging documents—but not for physicians or healthcare providers seeking to locate information at the data level within a health record.
Interoperability services that take into consideration the above factors are an essential first step to ensuring that you build FHIR interoperable soutions that make exchanging medical data and improving health outcomes a breeze.
The FHIR solution
To address these compatibility and accessibility challenges in healthcare data exchange and IT systems, FHIR (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources) can overcome the issues accompanying access to healthcare data in a document-based environment.
Developed in 2012, FHIR adopts existing standards and technologies from non-healthcare industries. FHIR allows developers to create apps that feed information directly to EHR systems through familiar technologies and transcend legacy regimes. Building FHIR interoperable systems with well-established web standards like XML, JSON, HTTP, OAuth, and REST also ensures that developers without healthcare IT experience under their belt face lower barriers when implementing new software.
Since FHIR resources can include metadata, text or specific data elements, think of it as a better, improved and more flexible C-CDA document. Providing a set of comprehensive healthcare information, it empowers anyone accessing it to have useful and actionable sets of clinical observations and services.
What does FHIR mean for patients, physicians and healthcare providers?
For patients, FHIR interoperable systems can reduce the headache of harmonizing personal health records on different patient portals in multiple health systems. Integrating data for a comprehensive overview of their medications, allergies and issues, FHIR-friendly systems can improve care coordination and delivery at every stage of their care.
In FHIR-supported systems, doctors can see a patient’s comprehensive medical record with context—instead of wasting valuable time deciphering isolated documents from different health systems. Moreover, medical devices can send data to hospital EHRs, exchanging aggregated data to ensure better, more efficient, data integration for further clinical and administrative applications.
The most significant use case for FHIR interoperable systems might be in medical research. The customizability of FHIR interoperable systems has the potential to revolutionize research and medical approaches. Physicians can pull data from different research sources for specific needs and even send anonymous information to research registries. No matter the particular use cases, FHIR has dramatically redefined how developers view IT infrastructure to support patient-centric care.