March 31, 2017
FHIR significantly lowers the barrier to implementation of healthcare interoperability as it is more developer-friendly and clinically focused than previous attempts at healthcare standardization.
By Mark Sinke, Forcare Founder and CTO
In one of our previous blog posts, we listed 9 Reasons why FHIR is better. This might have left you wondering how FHIR fits into Forcare's offering. After all, Forcare offers a complete suite of software products with IHE XDS at the core.
Some background on IHE and XDS
IHE is an organization comprised of users and vendors of healthcare information systems, which takes standards and applies them to concrete use cases. These applications are laid down in integration profiles, which describe a concrete use case, the applicable standards, and their application (profiling) for the case at hand. These profiles can then be used as high-level building blocks in RFPs or system architectures. The IHE profiles are tested on test events called ‘IHE Connectathons’. During these events vendors are given the opportunity to prove interoperability with other vendors.
One of the profiles in the IHE portfolio is the XDS (Cross-Enterprise Document Sharing) profile. It was developed in 2004 to facilitate use cases around the access to information gathered in various institutions that share a common care pathway.
So what about FHIR?
FHIR, or Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources, is a standard created by the Health Level Seven International (HL7) healthcare standards organization. FHIR significantly lowers the barrier to implementation of healthcare interoperability as it is more developer-friendly and clinically focused than previous attempts at healthcare standardization.
However, the current state of these applications is mostly on a proof-of-concept level.Reaching a level of true interoperability with FHIR beyond the protocol level requires definition of use cases, a test process, and declaration of conformance on a higher level. It also requires integration with user identity and access control, which in the general IT landscape is a very fragmented space. As we have learned from building health information exchanges over the years, interoperability requires inclusion of robust security controls in order to be accepted by care providers and their patients.
IHE has done exactly that by profiling some of the FHIR specification in the MHD (Mobile access to Health Documents) and profiles like IUA (Internet User Authentication). Still, at the moment FHIR profiles are more meant for point-to-point message exchange than to build a sharing infrastructure. But we cannot ignore the fact that FHIR is becoming more popular and widely-used. It will only become more and more important in the future.
As an active participant of the international IHE organization and as a leading global supplier of IHE XDS networks, Forcare supports all IHE profiles which can be used by healthcare professionals to easily share patient information, enjoy collaborative workflows and connect healthcare networks. This includes FHIR based profiles. To live by our mission of providing high-quality, highly interoperable software, Forcare is investing in, and contributing to FHIR implementation. Our standards-based interoperability solutions will evolve to stay current, and high-quality.
Interested in learning more? Feel free to ask our consultants or request a demo.