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Are your healthcare applications on FHIR?

As the cynics are fond of saying, the nice thing about standards is that there are so many of them. Nevertheless, if you build applications that in any way deal with healthcare, you should consider adding yet another one, HL7 FHIR, to your vocabulary. It’s part of the movement to drive paper out of the healthcare system.

FHIR, short for Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources and pronounced “fire,” is a standards framework, still in draft form, that describes modular data formats and elements (called “resources”). It also encompasses an application programming interface (API) for exchanging electronic health records. It’s being positioned as suitable for mobile phone apps, cloud communications, and server communications within institutional healthcare providers. Supporters include industry heavyweights Cerner, the Mayo Clinic, Meditech, McKesson, and the Partners HealthCare System (which includes Massachusetts General Hospital).

Resources are the standard’s building blocks, numbering just shy of 50 and organized into 12 groups. The Medications group, for example, is composed of seven resources: Medication, MedicationPrescription, MedicationAdministration, MedicationDispense, MedicationStatement, Immunization, and ImmunizationRecommendation.

Based on HTTP RESTful Web services and JSON (or XML) for data representation, FHIR also relies on OAuth for authorization. The FIHR website offers plenty of documentation and coding examples.

FHIR is managed under the auspices of Health Level Seven International (HL7), a Michigan-based “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 that supports clinical practice and the management, delivery and evaluation of health services,” according to its website. To put it more simply, HL7 creates standards for the interchange of healthcare data.

Though still considered a draft standard for trial use that is yet to be finalized, FIHR looks promising. If it eliminates paper and advances the speed and accuracy of clinical healthcare, I’m all for it.

Do you develop applications for the healthcare industry? If so, share your opinions about FHIR and your plans for incorporating it (or not) into your development process. We’d like to hear from you.