Today’s healthcare providers use a wide variety of applications and data across a broad ecosystem of partners to manage their daily workflows. The integration of these applications and data is critical to their success, allowing them to deliver patient care effectively and efficiently.
Despite modern data transformation and integration capabilities that have enabled faster and easier data exchange between applications, the healthcare industry is lagging behind due to the sensitivity and complexity of the data involved. In fact, some health data is still transmitted in physical format, preventing providers from benefiting from integration and automation.
What is HL7?
Health Level Seven (HL7) is a series of international standards designed to address this challenge. First introduced in 1989, the standards were created by Health Level Seven International, a group of technology and healthcare leaders with the goal of providing better support for hospital workflow. HL7 provided a standard set of patient attributes and clinical events to improve healthcare interoperability.
What is the FHIR standard?
Rapid Healthcare Interoperability Resource (FHIR) is the most recent version of HL7.
The FHIR specification sets standards for health data exchange, including how health information can be shared between different IT systems, regardless of how it is stored. The FHIR standard describes data elements, messaging and document formats, and an application programming interface (API) for the exchange of electronic health records (EHRs) and electronic medical records (EMRs) . FHIR is open source, providing open APIs that enable real-time data exchange.
What are the advantages of FHIR?
FHIR simplifies care management for patients, even if they see multiple providers at different healthcare organizations and use multiple plans (multiple payers using multiple EHRs). By creating a single, unified personal health record that integrates data from different formats, FHIR standards provide a comprehensive view of patient information to improve overall care coordination and clinical decision support. Everyone benefits from more effective, personalized, integrated and cost-effective health solutions.
What are the differences between FHIR and HL7?
FHIR builds on previous standards such as HL7 version 2 (V2) and HL7 version 3 (V3) and uses popular web standards such as RESTful, XML, JSON and HTTP APIs. Using REST APIs makes FHIR more efficient because it allows data consumers to request information on-demand, rather than subscribing to a feed that shares all data, whether it’s needed immediately or not (like this was the case in previous versions of HL7).
The HL7 FHIR REST API can be used with mobile applications, cloud-based communications, EHR-based data sharing, real-time server communication and much more. Using FHIR, software developers can develop standardized, browser-based health applications that allow users to access clinical data from any health system, regardless of operating systems and devices used .
FHIR is easier to learn and implement than previous versions and provides out-of-the-box interoperability. The FHIR standard also allows for different architectural approaches that can be used to collect information from a modern or existing system.
Is FHIR compatible with HL7?
Although FHIR is compatible with HL7 V2 and CDA, organizations should migrate to FHIR to take advantage of the new direction in health information data exchange. However, many vendors still rely on earlier versions of the HL7 standard, leaving some IT teams unsure whether to rewrite existing applications for HL7 V2 or replace them.
IBM® and FHIR integration
Our application integration solution, IBM App Connect, has the power to transform HL7 to FHIR bidirectionally without the need to rewrite existing applications. It can move health data from one system to another, including to an EHR acting as an FHIR server.
IBM App Connect for Healthcare is a specialized version of IBM App Connect for the healthcare industry. It offers predefined models that provide intelligent FHIR transformation and routing. The models can convert FHIR to any other format, which creates opportunities for healthcare organizations to realize the benefits of FHIR and explore the latest integration methods, including event-driven architectures. Health IT providers can use IBM API Connect to extend the reach of these FHIR resources for multiple use cases with the ability to create, manage, secure and socialize FHIR APIs.
Senior Product Manager, IBM Integration
Global Executive Cloud Integration Architect