Technology

An Ecosystem on FHIR: Perspectives on Data Exchange

May 24, 2018

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Here at Think Research, we take as many opportunities to connect with our network as possible, and we recently came back from the FHIR North Conference at Mohawk College, in Hamilton Ontario.

At this engaging event, we were able to network with technology leaders, share ideas and hear about innovative approaches to FHIR. Our VP of Product Management, Rushabh Gudka, led a session at the conference. We were able to sit down with him afterwards to discuss FHIR, why it’s important and why Think Research is leveraging it in our product development processes.

For those who may not come from a technology background: what exactly is FHIR?

RG: FHIR stands for Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources and it refers to the health technology industry’s standard for exchanging medical data. It was developed by Health Level Seven International (HL7), which is a not-for-profit organization accredited by the American National Standards Institute. Their mission is centred around the “exchange, integration, sharing, and retrieval of electronic health information that supports clinical practice and the management, delivery and evaluation of health services.”

Why is the adoption of FHIR important?

RG: As with any industry, the adoption of standards can foster incredible growth in applications and new verticals. Internet of Things (IoT) is a great example of a massive industry that’s been built on the back of telecommunication interoperability and standardization. From a strategy perspective, it’s incredibly important that standards like FHIR are adopted because it represents in many ways the bleeding edge of where things are going when you empower other organizations with data. For us it’s an ecosystem and our approach relies on the free flowing of data to ensure clinical content is used as well as optimized.

Nothing summarizes what we do as an organization better than our mission statement, which is “organizing the world’s health knowledge so that everyone gets the best care”. There are two keywords here that are central to what FHIR is all about: organize and knowledge. So FHIR represents a critical component to our overall mission of organizing knowledge and the dissemination of that knowledge at the point of care.

How does FHIR help ensure best practice across different sectors of care, and across our different solutions?

RG: Best practices need to be actionable across any system and any phase in the delivery of care. I think we can all admit that best practices are not effective if they are relegated to a cork board or in a journal. FHIR helps to standardize the adoption of these best practices by improving data exchange across multiple systems, and is especially relevant for interdisciplinary programs or when crossing different sectors of care. This is especially important in clinical workflows like eReferrals and Virtual Care where the free flowing of data between applications and EMRs is vitally important.

For primary care, FHIR allows us to provide dynamic decision support through platforms like Virtual Care, along with rules and reference material that can help care providers.

When it comes to acute care specifically, FHIR allows for a better exchange and dissemination of clinical best practices at the point of care, and helps us as a company to quickly develop content and understand clinical workflows.

It will be interesting to see how FHIR standards evolve over time, and how the health tech industry continues to adapt to this changing landscape. Stay tuned as we share more perspectives on data exchange in further blog posts.

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