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Everyone in health IT is talking about the HL7® FHIR® standard. And they should.
The standard presents one of the greatest opportunities to achieve true interoperability. That’s why the best and brightest minds in the industry continue to come together to explore its possibilities and promise.
The value of interoperability is clear: 80 percent of healthcare providers said that electronic data exchanges increased their efficiency, while 89 percent of healthcare providers said such connectivity improved their patient’s quality of care. And that’s what it’s all about.
However, while we tout the power and possibility of FHIR, we should also proceed carefully and methodically. As quickly as we are moving, we must remember to take the time to ask ourselves some important questions.
These are crucial questions during an increasingly complex time in healthcare IT. As we continue to figure out which standard is fit for purpose, we have outside technologies – mobile devices and apps – coming at us and affecting our operations and technology plans. The good news is that with the right planning and the right technology choices, we can leverage all of these, together, to bridge any gaps that may occur.
The last thing we want and need in healthcare is any kind of digital divide among organizations and systems, so it’s best to proceed smartly, while not forgetting our legacy install, and move forward with an expected transition time.
I want to offer a few ways we – as health IT leaders, innovators and doers, can determine how to best evaluate all the paths to full connectivity – before the investment and implementation.
If we are to truly implement a system that supports the Triple Aim, we need to keep in mind these questions, and commit to making informed choices by looking at the benefits and drawbacks of all standards.
For example, HL7 messaging is mature and useful for large volume data transactions, yet is largely limited to push transactions. When we look at C-CDA, we see benefits, such as being able to handle a number of use cases and to see information in a snapshot of time. A drawback, however, is the risk of latency in the face of information size and complexity, among other issues.
Ultimately, no matter how many of us get together and promote the standard, it will be its usability and ability to prove value where it’s most needed – patient care and outcomes – that will determine its depth and breadth of adoption.
Even the HL7 CEO Charles Jaffe, MD, PhD, confirmed that, "ONC is entirely behind the use of FHIR, but the fact is that the marketplace will decide the utility of FHIR."
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FHIR® is the registered trademark of HL7 and is used with the permission of HL7.