Fueling the Interoperability Fires with IHE

By Keith W. Boone, MBI, an exhibitor at the HIMSS Interoperability Showcase™ at the HIMSS18 Global Conference & Exhibition; GE Healthcare

Wow, it’s 2018 already! I’ve been working on health IT interoperability for more than a decade and a half, and on standards for more than two decades. Two-thirds of my adult life have been spent on standards – either as an end-user, an implementer or a developer.

In 2012, I predicted FHIR – Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources – was going to be hot. You can find news on FHIR with some well-known brands making fiery announcements and smoldering updates on the value of this health IT standard.

After testing our own FHIR-based application program interface (API) server for our electronic health record products in December, and hot on the heels of that release, I tested out our FHIR capabilities and the IHE Connectathon in January with three different IHE profiles and multiple vendors.

FHIR, like XML before it, makes it easy for software engineers to do their real work, building applications, rather than the challenging but necessary infrastructure that goes along with it.

IHE, or Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise, has been quietly fueling work on FHIR since its inception. The DocumentReference, DocumentManifest and AuditEvent resources in FHIR originate in part from work found in the IHE Cross Enterprise Document Sharing (XDS), and Audit Trail and Node Authentication (ATNA) profiles.

One of the new paradigms in IHE these days is mobile and FHIR is clearly the winning protocol in IHE for mobile applications. When you find mobile in the name of an IHE profile, you can almost be certain there’s some part of FHIR underneath it. Mobile Access to Health Documents (MHD) was IHE’s first foray into the flames in 2012, but the collection of profiles going “mobile” now includes:

  • Patient Identity Cross Referencing for Mobile (PIXm)
  • Patient Demographic Query for Mobile (PDQm)
  • Query for Existing Data for Mobile (QEDm)
  • Mobile Access to Health Documents for Imaging
  • Mobile Alarm Communication Management (mACM)
  • Mobile Care Services Discovery (mCSD)
  • Mobile Cross-Enterprise Document Data Element Extraction (mXDE)

Many of these are in their second or even third year of testing and close to final text.

The last time I saw a standard gain this much traction in this short a period was XML more than two decades ago (in the very late 20th century).

Do you want to know why FHIR is so hot? It’s simply this: You don’t have to teach it to software engineers; they simply absorb it on their own.

FHIR, like XML before it, makes it easy for software engineers to do their real work, building applications, rather than the challenging but necessary infrastructure that goes along with it.

Experience these up-and-coming digital innovations at the HIMSS Interoperability Showcase™.

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