Promoting interoperability in the healthcare ecosystem with the HL7 FHIR standard

The delivery of quality healthcare in the modern world is absolutely dependent on the availability of quality information. This is true whether the information comes directly from a clinician, monitoring by a Care Coordinator or through an anonymized population analysis. The problem is that data is held in many different places – often only by the system that collected it in the first place – and often the structure and content of that data is focused on the needs and formatting of the collecting system, rather than on formats more suitable for wider sharing.

The ability to exchange information between systems in a timely and understandable manner has always been important, and as the volume and type of health-related information increases, it is becoming even more important and difficult to achieve.

Historically, much of this exchange has been performed using standards developed by HL7®, including version 2 messaging, which has been in use since 1987. More recently, Clinical Document Architecture (CDA) and derivatives such as Consolidated CDA (CCDA) have become widely used – especially in the United States, but also worldwide. However, these standards can be complex to implement effectively, and are outmoded in the realtime connected world required by mobile and personal device applications.

In recent years, a new standard has emerged from HL7. Called HL7® FHIR® Standard, Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR, pronounced “fire”), it has attracted enormous interest from the wider healthcare community at a pace and level of interest unmatched by any previous standard.

This paper examines the drivers behind FHIR, gives an overview of what it is, how to learn more, how it will benefit healthcare information exchange and provides a future perspective on where FHIR is heading.