FHIR And The Future Of Interoperability

Brian Ahier | Government Health IT | January 6, 2015

There is growing interest in the health care information technology community in an emerging data exchange technology known as FHIR (pronounced “fire”).  FHIR, or Fast Health Interoperability Resources, is a proposed interoperability standard developed by the health care IT standards body known as HL7. Health Level Seven International (HL7) is 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.

Stakeholders from across the HIT ecosystem are actively exploring, experimenting and testing FHIR. Part of the enthusiasm surrounding FHIR is due to the elegant simplicity of the technology.  FHIR is attractive primarily because it is based on a truly modern web services approach (and one used by companies such as Yahoo, Facebook and Google). This approach makes it easier for systems to exchange very specific, well-defined pieces of information, rather than entire documents.

Such specific pieces of information might be as simple as a patient’s gender or marital status. Today in HIT, the common standard is one based on what is known as C-CDA, or Consolidated Clinical Document Architecture. And unfortunately, C-CDA is designed to transfer entire documents, rather than a single piece of data or a simple list...