Technological advancements, as well as government regulations, have led to a transformation of the healthcare industry over the past several years. Under the Medicare EHR Incentive Program otherwise known as Meaningful Use, a component of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA), providers are reimbursed based on their use of electronic health records (EHR) for documentation. To ensure compliance with MACRA and other regulations stipulated in the Patient Care and Affordable Protection Act, providers and healthcare facilities have increasingly adopted EHRs for documentation and transitioned away from paper documentation.
One of the challenges that have resulted from the use of EHRs by providers and healthcare facilities is interoperability. The different EHR vendors have different communication standards such that the exchange of data between the disparate systems can sometimes be difficult if not outright impossible without the use of an integration engine. One of the ways that are being considered to address this issue of interoperability is the use of a common standard by all EHR vendors. Enter the FHIR standard. Interoptex’s new Rapid-FHIR (pronounced Rapid Fire) EHR integration API takes full advantage of the benefits of the Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources standard.
What is the Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources Standard?
Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) is an internet based protocol that was created to address the issue of interoperability experienced by the healthcare providers. Developed in 2014 by Health Level Seven International (HL7), FHIR provides a framework to be used by all EHR vendors so that information can be freely exchanged between disparate systems. With FHIR, providers can transmit and receive all pertinent medical information relevant to the care of a patient; this allows the provider to make better diagnoses and improve treatment options offered to the patient. In 2017, the FHIR standard was released, though it is still primarily in the trial phase.
How does FHIR work?
Currently, most EHRs utilize the Consolidated Clinical Document Architecture (C-CDA) standard, known as a document level standard, in the exchange of medical information. What this means is that entire documents are transmitted when a provider requests for a small piece of medical information, for example, a patient’s allergies. The provider then has to wade through the entire document to find the relevant information which can be a time-consuming and frustrating process. Furthermore, the provider’s EHR system may not be equipped to receive the document directly in the format being transmitted without some form of translation.
FHIR, in contrast, utilizes a data level standard in the exchange of medical information. The building block of FHIR as a standard is a data element known as a Resource. Each piece of medical information is put in a separate Resource with its own unique tag, similar to the URL on the internet. The tags serve as identifiers in requesting specific Resources. Upon request, Resources can be discreetly transmitted electronically instead of entire documents. For example, a provider can request for and receive only information about a patient’s allergies without having to sift through entire documents. As such, the Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources standard allows for a more granular and efficient exchange of medical information.
Benefits of Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources Standard
Some benefits to using FHIR as a healthcare communication standard include:
- Customizable documents: FHIR allows for document customization based on the preference of the requester. With FHIR, only the necessary information is transmitted which can then be constructed into a document. Therefore, providers can customize their documents to suit their desired information needs.
- Collaboration: Using FHIR as a standard, providers can easily exchange relevant medical information with each other. This enables them to collaborate more effectively in offering medical care to their patients.
- Vendor neutral: FHIR’s internet based design is such that it is compatible with any EHR system. Therefore, providers are free to use any EHR they prefer without any concern as to its ability to transmit or receive medical information.
- Time efficient: The FHIR standard saves time because only the specifically requested information is transmitted. Providers do not have to sift through pages of documents to find the information they need.
At Interoptex, we know how essential fast healthcare interoperability is to the success of your healthcare facility or company. We have specialists available to answer any questions and enhance your interoperability capabilities. For more information about our services, contact us.