The growth of available electronic health data is expanding every day. And the adoption of value-based reimbursement has increased the importance of sharing health data among multiple providers, healthcare organizations, and payers. As a result, there is increased attention for data standards development among software vendors and technology companies, to improve interoperability between systems. Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (aka HL7® FHIR® standard or FHIR) is an interoperability standard that has great potential to advance interoperability in healthcare due to its simple, internet-based approach.
What is FHIR?
FHIR (pronounced “fire”) is a data standard developed by Health Level Seven International (HL7), an organization that develops and provides frameworks for health information systems. FHIR takes a web services approach, much like social media and e-commerce platforms today, where a specific web address (URL) is entered, using a web browser. That URL acts as a query, and the requested information is retrieved with the receiver of that request obtaining results securely.
FHIR consists of data elements called resources; each resource has a tag that acts as a unique identifier, similar to a unique URL of a web page. Today, standardized FHIR-based browser applications are being built that will allow common access, regardless of the infrastructure used by an Electronic Health Record (EHR) vendor.
What is SMART on FHIR?
The concept of SMART (Substitutable Medical Apps & Reusable Technology) was introduced in an article published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2009, written by Isaac Kohane, MD, PhD and Kenneth Mandl, MD.
The SMART platform is a user interface that allows the development of a common set of medical apps that can run on any EHR system. By blending both FHIR and SMART technologies together (aka SMART on FHIR), developers can build medical apps using developer-friendly APIs that will integrate into any EHR system with minimal effort.
What does the future hold?
FHIR will transform healthcare interoperability as all types of healthcare technology products will be able to leverage its framework. FHIR will make it possible for patients to finally have access to a single patient record that spans across multiple provider settings and multiple episodes of care, instead of having to access multiple health system-specific portals. Additionally, use cases can send de-identified data to different registries for important issues such as advancement of cancer treatments, drug interaction warnings and drug fraud detection. FHIR is a game-changer in the future advancement of interoperability.