Standardizing Healthcare Data with FHIR
To take full advantage of what electronic health information has to offer, it is important to enable the smooth interchange of healthcare data across apps and systems. In the past, private systems were used to protect patient data. Obsolete means such as faxing charts and exchanging paper-based records were relied on to share patient medical records.
However, advancements in technology have led to a change in the way that medical information is handled. In 1987, an organization called Health Level Seven International (HL7) set out to create standards for transferring, integrating, sharing, and retrieving health data electronically. This group is now a major supplier of medical information system interoperability standards.
Over the years, HL7 has produced a number of well-known standards, such as HL7 Version 2 (HL7v2) and Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR). According to HL7, 95% of healthcare institutions use a version of HL7 V2 as their standard. Version 3 was released to address the shortcomings of its predecessor, but it hasn’t gained traction in the way HL7v2 did.
The Current Problem with HL7 and Electronic Health Data Exchange
Currently, there are several types of software and systems for storing patient data in place in the healthcare industry. Even though HL7v2 is commonly used in these software and systems, many different institutions use different methods for implementing HL7v2. When two systems that support HL7v2 communicate, an analysis procedure is typically involved.
Although patient information can be electronically exchanged via different systems and software using the same HL7v2 standard, it’s often incompatible, hard to read, time-consuming, or generally just confusing. The issue is not due to the usage of various versions of HL7v2 but rather how the standard has been implemented in different systems. With the nature of patient medical charts, this information should be quick and easy to exchange and read when it’s transferred between institutions.
FHIR As a Solution
Following the issues that come with HL7v2, FHIR was developed to help create a standard format of sharing data easily without confusion. FHIR is more standardized in its implementation, meaning that it will redefine how information is stored and exchanged between medical institutions. Overall, FHIR will make the exchange of information very easy since the layout and the organization of information within the file is standardized.
Using a deidentified ICU dataset available for public use, RediMinds created models using the FHIR file format. With the FHIR file format, RediMinds was able to develop models efficiently. Because FHIR data is standardized, data processing for model creation is easier and shorter. It also helps create more sophisticated analytical models.
Creating models with other file formats such as HL7v2 is not as simple since there are different variables and information in the file stored in different ways. On the other hand, with the FHIR file format, developing models becomes backend technology-agnostic since the file is standardized, and data will always be stored in the same fashion. Therefore, no matter the technology and software used by the hospital, the data will always be labeled the same.
Other Benefits of FHIR
There are a few other benefits of storing data in FHIR format. First of all, it is based on modern web standards, making it simple to use in mobile apps, online applications, and data sharing across different platforms. Since FHIR Resources are standardized, it has the same meaning across hospitals. On the contrary, despite HL7v2 being the primary standard of many medical institutions, its implementation varies across software, which causes confusion with the data.
With standardized data, insurance firms may use clinical data to enhance claims data to evaluate risks better, reduce costs, and optimize outcomes. In addition, patients may have more control over their health by obtaining medical information through applications that operate on smart devices. Because of its standard format, it cuts down on the amount of time spent on understanding different hospitals’ data and allows more time for decision-making. Efficiency and speed are both important features due to efficiency being necessary in the case of medical emergencies.
Furthermore, with minimal adjustments, Data Engineering and other activities that are done with FHIR data may be utilized across hospitals. Lastly, unlike HL7v2 and other standards, it is easy for humans to read and interpret without the computer running an analysis on the data.
Implications Of FHIR
Despite FHIR being a better choice for storing and sharing data, adopting FHIR may present challenges for intuition. FHIR was designed to simplify implementation but implementing an in-house FHIR implementation may mean acquiring new skills. Developing an interface or app is only the first step in the process. In the future, a team will need to maintain and grow a backend FHIR service, which may require extra skill in managing additional infrastructure.
Developing a FHIR-based cloud service may aid in overcoming adoption barriers. With the appropriate cloud implementation, you can speed up provisioning, personalize the implementation by integrating cloud-based services, and achieve adequate scalability for the future. Furthermore, the standardized file format of FHIR supports the development of AI solutions or advanced analytical solutions.
To learn more, check out this case study.