Latest FHIR Standard R5 Elevates Data Exchange, Interoperability

The newly released FHIR standard R5 contains thousands of incremental updates to enable advanced interoperability and streamline data exchange across disparate health systems.

The Health Level Seven International (HL7) unveiled its latest healthcare data exchange standard, HL7 Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources Release 5 (HL7 FHIR R5), an enhanced and expanded version of its previous standard, designed to improve interoperability and data exchange in the healthcare sector.

According to HL7, one of the leading innovators for healthcare information interoperability and standards with affiliates established in over 30 countries, FHIR R5 supports the development of innovative applications, improves interoperability, enhances data management, and simplifies workflow.

Specifically, the new standard offers a uniform framework for sharing healthcare information across diverse systems and applications to streamline health data exchange for clinicians.

With FHIR R5, patient data can be better accessed and managed, which minimizes errors resulting from limited interoperability, such as duplicate lab tests, medication mistakes, and communication issues that may arise when healthcare providers cannot share information in real-time.

Furthermore, by adopting the new healthcare data exchange standard, clinicians can optimize workflows and enhance the efficiency of administrative tasks. These tasks, such as scheduling appointments, managing referrals, and processing insurance claims, benefit from the seamless exchange of patient data between different systems.

Lastly, the flexible and extensible data model of FHIR R5 can foster the development of innovative applications in the healthcare domain, HL7 stated.

These new standards were built on input from the global healthcare community, drawing on their implementation experiences since Release 4 in December 2018.

FHIR R5, designated as a 'trial use' standard, maintains mature, normative content from previous releases while integrating improvements prepared for implementation and feedback.

"Release 5 represents the collective progress and implementation experience of the FHIR community," Daniel Vreeman, DPT, HL7 chief standards development officer, said in a press release. "With its many incremental updates, this release enables growing capabilities for interoperability in clinical care, public health, and research."

Some of the most notable enhancements include:

  • Integrating topic-based subscription capabilities into the core specification enables proactive event notifications in response to data changes within the source system.
  • Substantial revisions to the Medication Definition resources, aiming to support better manufacturers, regulators, and their utilization in drug catalogs and pharmacopoeias.
  • The addition of over a dozen new resources that define structures for various health-related information, bringing the total number of defined resource types to 157.
  • The introduction of new operations specifically designed for efficiently managing ample resources, such as Groups and Lists.
  • Several infrastructure changes to the specification facilitate improved management of coded terminologies and allow extensions to be managed more effectively alongside the core FHIR specification.

"We are grateful for the incredible contributions and dedication from the global healthcare community in developing FHIR R5," Grahame Grieve, HL7 FHIR product director, said. "The feedback and collaboration have been invaluable in shaping this latest version of the standard, which will further advance healthcare interoperability and improve healthcare outcomes."

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