Where FHIR Currently Stands and the Future Outlook for Interoperability


fhir cyber connection

Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) is an emerging standard for the electronic exchange of healthcare data. Published by HL7®, FHIR currently stands at R4B. If you’re already familiar with the evolution of this system, you can find technical insights into developments here.

FHIR Solutions

These technological solutions are built from resources, the name for the modular components that comprise them. Each resource has a unique identifier tag, comparable to each web page having a unique URL. Resources can be assembled into systems that can help healthcare organizations to address real-world challenges at a much lower cost: clinical and administrative problems alike.

Here’s how. Clinicians can share information across facilities in standardized ways. This is true no matter how a particular EHR system stores data. FHIR is designed to be flexible enough to handle the ways in which individual EHR systems are customized within a common sharing standard. The most up to date web technologies are used to enhance adoption rates.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is analyzing how to most effectively transition to FHIR quality measurements. The federal agency is, however, still in the research and testing stages of moving towards FHIR as the electronic clinical quality measure (eCQM) standard.

A Look at eCQMs

An eCQM has three main components:

  • Data model: this focuses on how to describe the data in a patient’s medical record
  • Expression logic: here, decisions are made about how to calculate results and evaluate performance
  • Structure: this is where “measure metadata, numerator, denominator, exclusions, exceptions” are described

For a deeper look at this, here are two technical guides. The first focuses on quality measure implementation and, the second, on data exchange.

Benefits of FHIR

FHIR benefits are numerous. Clinicians and other teams will have faster access to real-time quality data while administrators can more easily report quality measures. Plus, of course, it will enhance interoperability. When new measures need to be implemented, this process will be simpler through a single FHIR mapping update—and all of this will be accomplished in a secure system.

HealthIT.gov reports additional benefits:

  • Implementation speed: developers have implemented simple interfaces in one day’s time
  • Free to use
  • No restrictions on use
  • Multiple free, online, downloadable tools
  • Public examples can be used as a basis to develop new applications
  • Base resources can be used out of the box or customized for local use requirements
  • Easily understood online specs
  • Serialization format that’s human-readable
  • Global community of support

FHIR is supported by Apple, Google, and Microsoft as well as most EHR vendors, including Epic and Cerner. Plus, there are already about two million FHIR apps.

Components of an FHIR Resource

A resource can be an “individual packet of information that includes metadata, text, or particular data elements,” Health IT Analytics explains, or it can be bundled collections of documents. Going back to the analogy of a resource being comparable to a web page URL, healthcare organizations would no longer need to pass documents back and forth. Instead, they can share the unique tag identifier.

FHIR goes beyond the typical exchange of information, though, through apps that go beyond a document-based approach. You can plug these apps into an EHR system to send the information directly into workflows without the traditional exchange processes.

Current and Future FHIR Usage

The Epic EHR system has incorporated FHIR into its clinical decision support model. This provides ease of access with real-time data available at the point of care. Cerner, meanwhile, has leveraged this technology to expand the capabilities of population health management.

Because FHIR makes users feel more like using the internet, it’s a natural extension of how people already use technology. Soon, it may be used to connect health-monitoring apps to EHR systems with patient-generated data analyzed on an FHIR platform, integrated into a patient’s already-existing EHR workflow. This can help doctors to monitor patient conditions and spot emerging health trends in both individuals and groups.

When a patient has providers in multiple healthcare systems, their information could be gleaned from several patient portals and merged into one. This will enhance the coordination of care. Providers, meanwhile, can pull in data from multiple research sources to make healthcare decisions.

Exciting as the technological advances are, it’s crucial to then use the data and analyze it to find ways to improve patient care, outcomes, and overall well-being. It’s important to consider how to collate a patient’s information and use it to help the patient seamlessly transition from one type of care to another, as needed, throughout their lives.

Big Boost in Usage Predicted

According to April 2021 data, 24 percent of healthcare companies are currently using at-scale FHIR APIs. Although still relatively small, 67 percent of providers expect this to happen at their organizations by 2023 with 61 percent of payers saying the same thing.

HealthTECH Resources for Your Healthcare IT Solutions

As technology possibilities expand, your healthcare organization can benefit in numerous ways—and you’ll need experienced EHR professionals on your team. When it comes to strategic staff augmentation, HealthTECH Resources is the fastest, most knowledgeable, and reliable healthcare IT company in the industry today.

When you need to augment your IT team, no matter where you are on your FHIR journey, we can help with development and support of healthcare integration and interoperability technologies and app integrations. Our boutique-style EHR consulting agency maintains a deep network of Application Architects, FHIR Subject Matter Experts and Developers, and Epic App Orchard Programmers  that are available as consultants, contract to hire professionals, and permanent placements to assist with FHIR related projects. Our experienced leadership can also assist you in analyzing in-house team skills sets, specialties, and bandwidth.

Or, you may already know what type of healthcare IT consulting you need. In either case, just let us know. We can rapidly fulfill requests—oftentimes we have the ability to provide qualified professions with stringent requirements within tight timeframes. Contact us online or call (602) 903-7961.