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HL7 Celebrates 10 Years of FHIR Health IT Data Standard

As the health IT data standard matures, HL7 officials said that the organization plans to put out FHIR Release 5 in 2022.

Health Level Seven (HL7) International celebrates 10 years of international development and implementation of the Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) health IT data standard.

The open-source data standard aims to support healthcare interoperability for real-time access to health information across the care continuum.

FHIR is widely used across the healthcare industry in mobile applications, cloud communications, EHR-based data sharing, and server communications.

Since its inception, FHIR has fostered a collaborative culture, noted Charles Jaffe, MD, PhD, HL7 International CEO.

“The development and adoption of FHIR was advanced by a remarkable and committed international community,” Jaffe said in a press release. “The impact that FHIR has had on global healthcare was driven by an unprecedented level of collaboration that today continues to grow." 

Grahame Grieve, inventor of FHIR, principal at Health Intersections, and FHIR product director at HL7, reiterated the importance of FHIR as a community.

“Most people think about FHIR as a technical specification, but I look at it first of all as a community,” emphasized Grieve.

HL7 officials noted that FHIR maintains an active community of collaborators with open servers, free implementation guides, and FHIR Accelerator programs aimed at continuous development.

The data standard helps health IT developers access the data they need to build applications so institutions can realize enterprise-level tools quickly, HL7 officials added.

Over the last ten years, the FHIR community has achieved success in several key areas, including the HL7 FHIR Accelerator Program.

The Argonaut Project has helped users of a leading platform aggregate and access personal health data on their mobile devices, HL7 officials added. The project has also supported the integration of clinical decision support algorithms into health IT workflows.

In addition, the HL7 DaVinci Project has worked to help payers and providers improve clinical quality, cost, and care management outcomes.

HL7 officials said that the organization expects to put out the FHIR Release 5 update later next year.

“FHIR is destined to become the underlying ‘network’ that supports health applications everywhere,” said James Agnew, chief technology officer at Smile CDR and an early FHIR implementer.

April survey data from the Engine Group commissioned by Change Healthcare found that while only 24 percent of healthcare companies utilize FHIR application programming interfaces (APIs) at scale, 67 percent of providers and 61 percent of payers expect their respective organizations to utilize APIs at scale by 2023. 

Healthcare organizations will soon be beholden to more FHIR API use per the ONC interoperability final rule. Part of the rule calls on medical providers and health IT developers to encourage patient data access using third-party apps and APIs.

Although APIs are becoming more prevalent in healthcare, the industry is inconsistent with its adoption. The 2015 edition health IT certification criteria updates and the new standardized API functionality dates are now required by December 31, 2022.

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