Is FHIR a disruptor to help democratise the health information space?

There are five disruptive technologies that healthcare organisations can embrace, according to Dennis Brown’s silicon republic article.  Robotics, virtual reality, automation, 3D printing and drones.  I agree with Brown, and I would add one more; the Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) standard for exchanging electronic data.

FHIR is a recent innovation of the Health Level Seven (HL7) internationally messaging standard. HL7 helps to create message structures for electronic exchange of patient information between systems, applications and compliant devices. HL7 is maintained by the sustained efforts of a large global community.

FHIR is a highly flexible and can be found in a variety of electronic health information structures, such as the Electronic Health Record (EHR), Clinical Context Object (CCOW), Continuity of Care Document (CCD), Clinical Document Architecture (CDA), and Care Record Summary (CRS). FHIR is scalable, supporting information exchange within a single healthcare facility, a group of facilities or a multitude of electronic systems across a diversity of healthcare systems, facilities or services.

FHIR provides a standardised messaging protocol for the communicating messages about a unique patient encounter. A FHIR server has unique characteristics:

  • It is online
  • It is secure
  • Definitions are searchable
  • It can empower users, including patients, by shifting control of siloed proprietary data from individual vendors to an open, vendor-agnostic platform
  • It makes information available to authorised people, systems and devices
  • It has substantial international support and investment.

FHIR can help democratise the information space, level the playing fields, and spark healthy competition among information systems service providers, emphasising serving users’ needs, rather than data control.