New standard for the exchange of health information is taking fire

12 June 2014 | Leslie Sistla, Director, Technology Strategy, Worldwide Health Industry

In early May, I attended the sixth Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) Connectathon in Phoenix, Arizona, and it was exciting to see the momentum that’s building for FHIR (pronounced “fire”).

What is FHIR? It’s an emerging standard for exchanging electronic health information from Health Level Seven International (HL7). Very simply, FHIR is an interoperability standard based on simple XML and JSON, with an http-based RESTful protocol. FHIR, as described by HL7, is suitable for use in a wide variety of contexts such as mobile phone apps, cloud communications, electronic health record system–based data sharing, and server communication in large institutional healthcare providers.

FHIR is now Draft Standard for Trial Use (DSTU)—basically an equivalent to beta. It means that it’s stable enough to begin implementing it in test scenarios. Already we’re seeing public FHIR evaluations by the SMART (Substitutable Medical Apps & Reusable Technology) project and the CommonWell Health Alliance, as mentioned in a recent Forbes Magazine article—to name just a couple examples.   

At the May Connectathon, there were several scenarios that demonstrated the use of Microsoft technology. 

Howard Edidin, a Microsoft BizTalk Consultant at Edidin Group, Inc., and Brian Postlethwaite, Senior Solutions Architect at DCA eHealth Solutions, collaborated to demonstrate interoperability with FHIR using various Microsoft technologies including BizTalk, .Net, Office 365, HealthVault, and Windows Phone. The scenario they worked on was of an emergency room workflow (shown below) that starts with the use of a Mobile Patient Viewer application (pictured above right).

Demonstrated by this scenario, FHIR uses design principles of today’s technologies such as the cloud and devices. So it has many practical uses in today’s mobile healthcare world—which is why it’s getting so much traction.

For .Net developers, Ewout Kramer, Integration Architect at Furore, one of the masterminds behind FHIR, has published FHIR .Net APIs, which makes it easier for .Net developers to get started with FHIR.  Furore is hosting FHIR - The Developer Days on November 24th - 26th.

Leslie Sistla
Director, Technology Strategy, Worldwide Health Industry