Health IT projects are increasingly being led by the clinical end users, rather than the developers. One question I’m being asked by my colleagues is, what is the best way to understand FHIR?

I think there are three main ways to do this – reading, engaging and doing.

Let’s discuss each of these.

Reading, there is a ton of information available on the web. Though you do need to be aware of what version is being discussed, FHIR is a rapidly evolving standard.

  • The specification is quite readable – there is even a start point especially for clinicians. As discussed in the FHIR for Clinicians white paper, understanding the Resources that are defined, the datatypes that they are made up from and profiling are good places to focus on.
  • Vimeo has quite a number of videos that have been made at various times over the past three years, many of them recordings of tutorials and other presentations.
  • There are a number of blogs listed on the FHIR wiki page
  • HL7 has educational resources – there is a FHIR fundamentals course for example.

Engaging with the FHIR community (which is extremely vibrant!).

  • Joining your local HL7 Affiliate is always a good start. These are the folk with a good understanding of all HL7 standards, including FHIR.
  • The HL7 Patient Care committee is the group responsible for the clinical resources.
  • There is a FHIR chat where you can get questions answered in near real-time, and all previous conversations are available for searching.

Doing is using tools like clinFHIR and forge to actually build FHIR artifacts. clinFHIR in particular is aimed at the clinical user and has a distinctly educational focus, whereas forge is intended as a functionally complete profiling tool for production use.

It is very important for clinicians to become actively involved in FHIR and health IT projects will benefit from having end users involved earlier in the process.