Enough evidence exists on the advantages of a globally integrated healthcare ecosystem. However, a seamless exchange of data is imperative to make data-driven health care a reality. It’s a mammoth task made simpler with the latest technology, considering the complexity of healthcare data and the number of stakeholders involved.
Like the rest of the world, most clinic workflows continued to operate offline in the pre-COVID-19 era. The pandemic-led changes quickly spurred previously-oblivious clinics to turn digital. With many more clinics now turning their patients’ medical and health records into electronic data, it’s crucial for providers to be aware of data standards and whether their digital health solution helps them comply.
Here’s all you need to know about data standards and why your clinic data should be FHIR-compliant. Also, find out how FHIR compliance places healthcare institutions a step ahead on their journey to deliver health care powered by data.
What is FHIR?
A data standard is the foundation of a truly integrated ecosystem. No matter where you may be on your digital transformation journey, if your clinic data exists in formats different from the rest of the industry, you may be left out of the benefits that data interoperability can offer.
Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources, also known as FHIR and pronounced as ‘fire’, is a standard for healthcare data exchange published by Health Level Seven International (HL7), a nonprofit healthcare standards organisation. In the making for over a decade, the latest and ongoing version of the data standard is the fourth release.
With FHIR, packets of data or resources are linked with a unique identifier. It’s similar to a webpage URL which allows one to access it from any browser or device. The unique identifier eliminates the need to exchange individual documents or information back and forth between systems. It also ensures that different applications always point to the right and same set of information.
Also Read: 10 reasons your clinic needs a digital upgrade
Why do healthcare institutions need FHIR?
Bringing offline documents online is only a small first step to the future of healthcare as the industry envisions it—delivering evidence-based health care. In the post-pandemic world, many healthcare institutions switched to paperless workflows and records. But the data exists in multiple formats, creating a scattered situation. Your clinic may now be digital, but the records remain document-based.
Consider this – now that most communication has turned virtual, digital records are being shared between healthcare institutions, providers, patients and other stakeholders throughout the day. However, not only is the information in multiple formats, but collaborators are using different systems. So before a clinic can share information – be it a document, PDF, image or other formats, it needs to be converted to a format compatible with both sender and receiver. Only then does an external collaborator gain access.
The existing process may be enough if the goal is simply communication. However, the extra steps make data interoperability more tedious than it should be. Having digital records but integrating multiple formats every time they need to be shared, gravely limits meaningful care coordination and decision-making. Also, it only scratches the surface of data analytics’ potential.
How does FHIR promise to improve healthcare?
1. Better access to the complete picture
A data standard enables easier access to holistic records that can be seamlessly shared between collaborators. The direct benefit of FHIR is that it normalises and eases out the exchange of healthcare data even when collaborators are using different software systems.
The availability of complete and accurate information leads to improved health outcomes by default. Holistic records allow a provider to understand the history and context of prescriptions or diagnosis. Various stakeholders on the patient journey who often need the same information have access to it in real-time, eliminating repetition or error.
2. More patients engaged in health care
A data standard enables patients to move with their information as they consult different clinics, specialists or caregivers. They also don’t have to repeatedly share the same documents when refilling prescriptions and making claims or payments.
FHIR makes it feasible to get access to the right set of data from any device or application. So patients can sync their medical and health records with popular apps. With apps uncomplicating health information, patients feel more empowered and willing to engage in their wellbeing.
Also Read: 5 features patients expect from their clinic experience in 2021
3. Enables smarter analysis and secure data
Since current healthcare data exists in multiple formats, it poses many constraints for performing critical analysis with even a small data pool. Besides, concerns over secure exchange keep many stakeholders hesitant from sharing their data which restricts the opportunity for constructive research and analysis.
Individual stakeholders may be secure with their data, but until FHIR, there hasn’t been a uniform standard used widely across healthcare to ensure a secure exchange. So, various collaborators, providers and patients have been exchanging critical data in any way that seems possible, convenient and economical.
FHIR in action
Here’s an example of a use case that illustrates the power of FHIR to improve the way health care is delivered. You may want to analyse patterns or deduce insights from the drugs prescribed in your clinic, or across a medical group, over time.
Information and data logged by your clinics in the form of patient requests, medication administration, dispensary, statements, observations, diagnostic reports and payment notice are turned into resources. FHIR helps you aggregate all the information in a standard format to scrutinise for analysis later.
Also Read: How Vault Dragon is building a thriving health tech company
Vault Dragon and FHIR
As a software provider, Vault Dragon is one of the first movers in the region to enable clinic partners to be FHIR-compliant. We have completed the proof of concepts. With this service, Vault Dragon offers clinic partners the capability to transform their data based on the standards set by HL7 FHIR.
Existing clinic partners can sign up for Vault Dragon’s additional FHIR service to get their data standardised. Meanwhile, new clinics have the advantage of being FHIR-compliant from the very beginning of their digital journey by turning records into FHIR with Vault Dragon’s additional service.