- The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) has adopted the FHIR data standard to enhance interoperability. The University noted that a joint effort by all healthcare organizations is needed to further advance and achieve the next goal of interoperability.
- Companies such as IBM and Mayo Clinic are leveraging FHIR integration for new clinical decision support models that consists of real-time data access.
- HL7 FHIR integration has too many unspecified data semantics and customization, resulting in data variation. Different values lead to different meanings in systems.
The Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) standard explains how healthcare data can be exchanged between various computer systems. It provides secure access to healthcare data to those who need it for patient care.
In a letter, Health Level Seven International (HL7) called in the National Committee on Vital and Health Statistics (NCVHS) to include FHIR as a data standard for electronic clinical attachments. This step was taken because HL7 was concerned that the rule may not include HL7 FHIR or the CDex IG standard for electronic clinical attachments. Since it wasn’t recommended by the NCVHS in their 2022 letter.
FHIR integration will bridge the gap between growing health data and the process of data transfers.
Benefits of FHIR Integration
1. Enhanced Interoperability
Interoperability is an essential aspect of the healthcare sector. Since patients are bound to receive care from multiple providers in a hospital or clinic, data must be transferred seamlessly between them. Healthcare interoperability is imperative for home-based care and patients diagnosed with chronic conditions.
With interoperable medical devices, patients with chronic diseases can capture physiological parameters and transmit them to providers for further assessment. The introduction of FHIR integration in hospitals will help providers and patients with advanced data sharing nationwide.
The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) has adopted the FHIR data standard to enhance interoperability. The University noted that a joint effort by all healthcare organizations is needed to further advance and achieve the next goal of interoperability.
2. Better Data Management
If a user wishes to access an URL, then he/she can do it from any browser or device, and they’re bound to get the same results anywhere they open the URL. The same concept is applied to FHIR integration. Healthcare developers will build a standard browsing application that will allow patients and providers to access data from any EHR system. Thus, ameliorating data management.
Further, healthcare data exchange that’s based entirely on C-CDA XML documents doesn’t offer access to information at the data level. Doctors will know about allergies and lab results but know nothing more about a patient. Hence, developers can create applications that surpass document-based systems.
Apps can be linked to the EHR and share data directly with the providers, thereby avoiding the pitfalls of document-based exchange. Companies such as IBM and Mayo Clinic are leveraging FHIR integration for new clinical decision support models that consists of real-time data access.
3. Seamless Data Integrations
The healthcare industry faces challenges in bringing healthcare providers, patients, and vendors together for seamless data collection, integration, and analysis. An increase in healthcare data is a plausible reason for this situation. Therefore, healthcare systems need effective data integration tools for data unification.
FHIR APIs can help with seamless data integration. They provide a common standard target to map out integrations. Whether you’re integrating with non-FHIR systems or integrating with blockchains, APIs offer a standard to build these integrations.
4. Improved Data Mining
The purpose of data mining in healthcare is to detect useful and understandable patterns by scrutinizing large data sets. These patterns help to predict industry trends. Healthcare data mining involves finding the right treatment for an illness. For this, symptoms, causes, and medications are compared to conclude the right treatment.
Additionally, data mining identifies fraudulent medical claims, referrals, and prescriptions. For instance, the Texas Medicaid Fraud and Abuse Detection System is known for using data mining to identify fraud.
To gain valuable insights from data, predict patterns, and form effective solutions, it’s imperative to have a standard. That’s where the FHIR integration comes into the picture. It creates large data sets from varied sources, which are further used to offer quality care and research.
FHIR Integration: Challenges
FHIR is based on internet standards used by industries other than healthcare. These include the REST approach which explains how individual packets of information can be shared.
HL7 FHIR lowers barriers for new software developers to support healthcare requirements. This is carried out by adopting existing standards and technologies familiar to developers. Though FHIR integration is a boon for providers, developers, and patients, it poses some challenges which are as follows:
- Security: Healthcare software is protected by HIPAA compliance rules. For FHIR incorporation, vendors and providers must set up authentication and accessibility measures. Security of FHIR integration is ensured through data management policies, procedures, and digital signatures.
- Patient Matching: FHIR EHR/EMR implementation simply links patient data across numerous healthcare systems to create a holistic EHR/EMR system. Linking patient data manually results in errors, thereby causing HIPAA violations. Hence, it’s essential to automate the process via FHIR integration.
- Too Much Variation: HL7 FHIR integration has too many unspecified data semantics and customization, resulting in data variation. Different values lead to different meanings in systems.
- Difficulty in Normalizing Data: Though FHIR is better than the previous HL7 standard, there still exist challenges in normalizing data. For example, there are chances that clinical data may not be returned with clear information, and end up with unnecessary data being sent, causing privacy concerns.
- High Cost of Adoption: FHIR integration with EHR or any other software is a time-consuming process, hence it costs tons of money. High cost eventually affects the healthcare system. So, it’s wise to approach healthcare software vendors to customize integrations as per needs.
HL7 vs FHIR
The primary difference between HL7 and FHIR is that FHIR leverages RESTful web services and open web technologies such as ISON, XML, and RDF. On the other hand, HL7 only supports XML. FHIR is built on past standards such as HL7 CDA, V2, and V3. It is easier to use as it covers a broad range of technologies.
FHIR and HL7 follow a set of core protocols for transmitting data between systems. These include:
- OSI Layer 7 Protocol: This offers application services for networks based on HTTP, SMTP, and other level 7 protocols.
- Event-Driven Protocol: Any healthcare event that urges a need to exchange data is defined as an event-driven protocol. It can be patient admission or a medication order at a pharmacy.
- Standard Protocol: No two apps will be able to exchange a message until a non-standard, propriety link is made.
- Application to Application Protocol: This ensures data exchange and communication between two independent apps, and not between client-server apps.
- Exchange Protocol: This determines how data will be transferred between apps. Database structure needs to match with HL7 standards.
Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources can do everything that HL7 V2 does and much more. It isn’t limited to single encoding syntax, unlike V2, and has one-to-many data exchange capabilities. Further, it offers strong security functions and cuts out implementation time.
Whereas, in the case of HL7, the V2 version is prominently used. With HL7 healthcare professionals can connect varied applications and devices easily. It improves healthcare quality via integrated data and advanced health analytics.
Though there are differences between HL7 and FHIR integrations, each has its importance in the healthcare sector.
Arkenea offers a range of integrations starting from EHR/EMR, custom integration with third-party APIs, billing, e-prescriptions, billing processes, and much more. To get an exceptional third-party integration for your organization, get in touch with Arkenea, a renowned healthcare software development company with over 12 years of experience.