What is the FHIR Standard?

The Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources, commonly known by its acronym FHIR (pronounced “fire”), is a data interoperability standard used to digitally connect disparate electronic health records (EHRs) and other healthcare applications.

Health Level Seven International (HL7), a leading healthcare standards organization, first drafted the concept of FHIR in 2011 and has since worked with developers, regulators, and healthcare technology providers to improve the standard for widespread use in the healthcare industry.

 

In 2020, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services issued the Interoperability and Patient Access Final Rule that requires CMS-regulated payers to implement and maintain a secure, standards-based patient access application program interface (API) using the FHIR standard. This includes programs such as Medicare advantage, state Medicaid programs, and other qualified health plans through the Federally Facilitated Marketplace. These organizations, including state and regional health information exchanges (HIEs), have until July 1, 2021, to meet this standard.

How the FHIR Standard Works

FHIR was created with healthcare interoperability in mind, creating an Internet-based approach instead of the document based-approaches that previously existed. FHIR leverages existing logical and theoretical models to provide a consistent and easy way to share information without sacrificing information integrity.

The standard was designed to create a base set of resources that could meet a diversified range of common use case scenarios. It can be used and implemented as part of a standalone data exchange standard or linked with an existing standard seamlessly.

FHIR works on the concept of “resources,” a term that includes almost any type of data used in EHRs and healthcare applications. This framework can be used in any system, no matter how it was created. By using FHIR, healthcare organizations can easily share any type of healthcare data with one another, allowing for data to travel with a patient from provider-to-provider, improving data collection and analytics, and better-informing individual’s health care.

Benefits of FHIR include

  • Simplified data sharing
  • Developer friendly
  • Free for use
  • Fast and easy to implement
  • Supports RESTful architecture
  • Delivers cost savings over time
  • Incorporates concept of “resources”
  • Well suited for mobile
  • Large community of experts

FHIR Fundamentals

A next generation, open-source standards framework and platform, built on 30 years of HL7 experience, designed for simplicity and implementation
Built on REST and APIs, using modern web technologies to manage information (as used by Facebook, Google, Twitter, etc.)
Available patient-focused APIs (as required by 21st Century Cures Act)
Content based on essential, portable modular information building blocks easily assembled into working systems
Like web pages, directed toward computers and fast/scalable
Flexible outputs: web, messages, documents, services
Includes an active, global community of developers who constantly test and refine the FHIR specification

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