How FHIR Can Build a Better Healthcare System

Updated on June 17, 2020

For years, there have been a few big issues about how electronic health records (EHRs) and digital health applications exchange structured healthcare data. It has been very hard to keep track of data and aggregate it, especially if a patient has important data in different places.

To solve this issue, standards organization Health Level Seven International (HL7) has developed Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources, which is better known as FHIR. It is a data API standards framework that exchanges electronic health information.

Keep reading to find out how FHIR can build a better health system. If you want to learn more, take a look at a comprehensive FHIR resource from Prolifics, which can give you all the details on the topic.

Data sharing will become easier than ever

Someone looking at a medical chart on a tablet
Image by mcmurryjulie from Pixabay 

Some people outside the medical field don’t see how easy data sharing is essential to providing good healthcare, but unsatisfactory data is actually a pressing issue. There are three major reasons why FHIR’s data-sharing abilities will make a big difference.

Payers and providers will have better collaboration

The entire industry is currently working on creating a value-based reimbursement model, which relies on how easily payers and providers can share data. With FHIR, the costs of sharing data will be decreased while it will be easier to coordinate care and prevention as well as manage conditions.

It allows clinical researchers to provide better treatments

Clinical researchers work hard on improving treatments, and their job can be much simpler and more efficient if they have more patient data. Both EHRs and patient-originated data can be extremely valuable for their further research and help them improve treatments.

It allows patients to take control of their own care

It’s not enough for doctors to know what’s going on with a patient’s health, this needs to be a two-way street. The patient needs to be in control of their health and make informed decisions about their own medical care. That is more easily achievable when they have access to their medical data.

When they’re granted this access, they can have the perfect diet, implement at-home treatments, avoid health care fraud, and incorporate the correct exercise into their daily routine.

Data management will be significantly better

A stethoscope and a pen on a doctor's chart
Image by Darko Stojanovic from Pixabay 

The healthcare system requires data from a vast number of sources and in different formats. It also comes in varying volumes and frequency, all of which are very hard to track.

Some examples of where data comes from include:

  • EHRs. The main source of patient data, which allows doctors to improve on all aspects of patient care.
  • Claims data. An electronic record on a big scale that collects various patient-provider communications.
  • Viral records. Records that inform about public health goals and policy.
  • Healthcare data. All components regarding the patients’ healthcare such as prescriptions and lab work.
  • Various research. Every year, a lot of research is done so health delivery systems can be improved.
  • Surveys. Data is collected with the goal of improving health delivery systems.
  • Wearables. Electronic devices that patients wear at all times can provide immediate healthcare data regarding the patient’s everyday health.

FHIR helps manage all of this data by providing a standard common target data format and converting the data into a usable form. This common format minimizes all redundant data and clarifies ambiguous meaning, which leaves us with consistent and accurate data.

When all of this data is standardized, it’s much easier to track important information. This includes who owns the data and where it came from, who has permission to access it, as well as who had used it in the past and for what purposes.

It allows better data mining

The words "Data mining" next to a pick axe
Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay 

When we combine artificial intelligence and machine learning with the benefits FHIR offers, we can see that healthcare can attain the next level in the near future.

Your data actually hides great value, all of which can be revealed with AI/machine learning. Some of that value can be found when you train AI/machine learning models to learn the following tasks:

  • Diagnosing the condition
  • Recommending the best medications and healthcare procedures that will treat the patient
  • Reducing the amount of money healthcare uses by spotting inefficient and fraudulent use of health resources

If you’re wondering what FHIR has to do with this, the explanation is pretty simple. FHIR doesn’t only provide standards for data, it also gives you an insight into how this data can fit together in a consistent way.

Machine learning can benefit a lot from this standard format. If you input bad data into machine learning models, you will get bad results. The same principle applies for insufficient data, as you will only get limited results because you didn’t feed the model with enough data.

A good AI/machine learning model needs to have the following characteristics:

  • High-quality data. The data which is imputed into this model needs to have good coverage and represent the whole data space.
  • Enough data. Megabytes of data aren’t enough, it needs to be in gigabytes or terabytes for the machine learning model to be able to make reliable predictions.
  • Correct format. Without consistent, properly formatted, and correctly labeled data, the machine learning model won’t be able to do its job properly.

Data integration will improve

A thumbs-up sign made out of medical items
Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay 

Your value chain consists of some very important data integrations. When you integrate FHIR with all of them, you will end up with a much better data integration system.

Some examples include:

  • Existing integration points. If you use legacy systems, packages, or newer cloud-native capabilities, you will have to make real-time integrations. No matter which type of points you have in your value chain, FHIR can make your integrations more streamlined, less expensive, and more efficient.
  • Mandatory data exchanged formats. There are some regulations that impact the types of formats in which data can be exchanged. For example, HIPAA requires the usage of X12 standards for electronic transactions.
  • Distributed ledgers. For the first time ever, everyone has access to the same data which is always up-to-date because it’s in a distributed ledger. This means that anyone who has permission to access this data can have it without delays and there is no need to keep track of different versions of the same information.

Final thoughts

As you can see, there are many benefits to FHIR. It’s clear that it’s the future of the healthcare system, a future that seems much brighter and better. 

Just like everything else in this world, the healthcare system has been evolving since it was invented. This change isn’t something to run from, but rather something that needs to be embraced. 

Throughout the year, our writers feature fresh, in-depth, and relevant information for our audience of 40,000+ healthcare leaders and professionals. As a healthcare business publication, we cover and cherish our relationship with the entire health care industry including administrators, nurses, physicians, physical therapists, pharmacists, and more. We cover a broad spectrum from hospitals to medical offices to outpatient services to eye surgery centers to university settings. We focus on rehabilitation, nursing homes, home care, hospice as well as men’s health, women’s heath, and pediatrics.