Everything moves online, especially in healthcare. In an increasingly digital world, we see a flood of data coming from mobile apps, web platforms, and smart devices. Modern healthcare companies share patient data, vaccination usage, availability data, and other information using the software.
The main reason why healthcare organizations leverage modern technologies is to enhance the patient experience. However, the quality of healthcare services cannot improve without smooth data exchange between multiple systems components.
Since achieving interoperability and HL7 FHIR specific expertise, delegating its implementation to a third-party vendor is better.
Binariks has many successful healthcare projects and significant expertise in the most relevant HL7 API standards, including FHIR. As reputable health IT vendor, we have solid experience providing healthcare services and working with the most recent security regulations.
This post covers the meaning of FHIR, its origin, and services. We also highlight the main challenges and tasks solved by the FHIR integration process.
What are Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources
Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) is a novel specification among HL7 API standards created to regulate electronic data exchange in health information systems. FHIR for healthcare can be applied as a stand-alone standard or a specification connected to other HL7 compliance principles.
The main purpose is to regulate APIs for quick and secure health information exchange.
As the newest HL7 EMR integration specification, FHIR allows adapting the main principles of previous standards to the most relevant industry trends and provides interoperability for health networks. Moreover, FHIR electronic health information exchange (HIE) specification is free, which means all resources to become compliant are freely available.
The essentials of the FHIR healthcare specification
FHIR integration in healthcare make the following types of data available in a health information system:
- adjudicated claims;
- provider payment;
- enrollee cost-sharing;
- laboratory results and other clinical data.
The standard is based on FHIR EMR integration resources. Healthcare providers use modular components to solve clinical and administrative problems. FHIR resources include:
- a built-in extension mechanism that works with the defined types of data;
- readable FHIR documentation for human use,
- a common set of metadata.
In different combinations, healthcare companies use resources to define information contents and structure information sets for most common use cases.
The story of HL7 standards and FHIR
The predecessor of FHIR, HL7 V2, was developed in 1989 to address interoperability issues. It streamlined communication between various systems with different functions, such as electronic medical records (EMR), hospital information, radiology and image archiving, laboratory information, and billing systems.
The exchange of patient information between different parts of the healthcare process (such as care - pharmacy - billing) was complicated before this data formatting standard. Transferring between specialists and hospitals was also time-consuming because patients had to carry paperwork, create a new medical record and undergo examinations and testing. For all parties in the healthcare industry, data sharing was a nightmare.
HL7 software integration provides clear instructions on integrating healthcare systems with multiple components. The standard defines 80% of the interface, leaving the remaining 20% open for customization: local data variations introduced by optional fields, extra messages, and so on. HL7 used ASCII-based (American Standard Code for Information Interchange) messages with encoding rules, groupings, cardinality, and the default character set to achieve the standard look and meaning of messages.
The standard was a significant step toward interoperability, and developers could avoid a substantial amount of manual interface coding. According to HL7 international , 95% of healthcare institutions in the United States currently use HL7 V2.
The HL7 FHIR API is the latest word in the HL7 standards. FHIR supports more data formats, provides better security, and enables developers to connect practically any health app. It includes everything the previous standards offer and even more, making healthcare interoperability easier to achieve.
HL7 FHIR integration challenges
HL7 integration and data interoperability standards may be confusing if you have never worked with them. As a result, there are still numerous challenges for data interoperability in healthcare systems.
There is far too much variation
Traditional FHIR HL7 integrations allow for too much customization and much-unspecified data semantics, resulting in data variance. Essentially, different values may have different meanings in different systems. For example, in one system, the value "3" may be used for smokers and in another for former smokers. It leads to misinformation and confusion about a patient's health, which can have disastrous consequences.
Complicated interface programming
To connect two systems, a great deal of programming and knowledge of both systems are required. You also have to monitor and test the interfaces for any disruptions constantly.
Normalizing data is still difficult
Even though FHIR is much more universal than other HL7 standards, challenges still exist in normalizing the data from multiple sources. For example, claims or clinical data is not sure to return brief and clear information via the API. It may result in unnecessary information being sent and received and privacy concerns.
The standard is sometimes detached from reality
Traditional HL7 FHIR data integration was created in response to clinical interface specialists' recommendations. It was mostly about "how it's supposed to work and help," rather than asking end-users about their problems. The latter's complaints were only heard while creating HL7 integration software, but it was too late. As a result, hypotheses became too detached from reality and failed to address most issues.
How to ensure adequate FHIR integration?
Integrating certified health information technology into your healthcare API processes requires solid technical HL7 integration expertise. Secure warehousing and a thoroughly-planned step-by-step approach are essential for healthcare providers focused on successful data integration.
The use of cloud-based technologies is a tried and trusted solution for integrating FHIR APIs in digital healthcare systems . For example, Amazon provides its Platform as a Service (PaaS) that can be used by healthcare vendors interested in embracing FHIR implementation . One can also mention large numbers of open source FHIR implementations that ensure interoperability of AWS technologies and FHIR software integration management.
The lack of technical expertise and appropriate technology stack may lead to failure in HL7 FHIR integration with API. The most dependable decision is to outsource the integration of secure health information exchange mechanisms to credible health IT vendors. A reputable technology partner can enhance this process by providing the following benefits:
- relevant insights and far-reaching ideas;
- shorter time-to-market;
HL7 FHIR API will accelerate your success by providing a ready, smart, plug-in platform that already runs three-quarters of the race to build outstanding FHIR interfaces for you and your customers.
Tasks that can be solved using HL7 integration with API
The HL7 FHIR integration in healthcare increases the quality of many tasks, including:
Patients get more control over their health records
87% of patients want access to medical data such as X-rays in their EHRs. People can understand their condition better and easily access their prescriptions if they forget how to take their medication. They can also access their dietary restrictions, find and correct any errors in their record, and make better decisions about their overall health. Such features significantly improve the overall quality of healthcare services.
Researchers get more quality data on patients and their treatments
Health data is extremely valuable. It enables you to understand public health and its problems better, observe how treatments work for different types of patients, and train AI/machine learning to diagnose, recommend treatment, and identify financial issues in the healthcare industry. FHIR enables the easy flow of well-structured data suitable for analysis.
Staff becomes more mobile
FHIR allows medical staff to integrate HL7 data from EHR with any system or device, allowing them to use mobile devices instead of computers. It is a positive step toward improved communication with patients and doctors from other departments and hospitals. Doctors can also avoid duplicate paper records by simply updating a patient's health status at any point of care, such as in their room, emergency room, or doctor's office.
Integrating systems following FHIR standards is necessary to provide the best patient care and experience in an increasingly digitized world.
Binariks is ready to assist your organization in creating HL7 FHIR integration software and making the entire process easier by providing ready-made assets, converters, and libraries. We have expertise in working with a broad range of technologies and a significant list of satisfied healthcare clients .
Do not hesitate to contact us if you want to take that step toward HL7 integration data and interoperability in your organization.