Setting Our Industry on FHIR

The following is a guest blog post by Florian Quarre, Chief Digital Officer at Ciox.

As we stand at the forefront of the future of health care, most of us share a common vision of what is possible in a more connected IT environment. We envision AI-powered, automatic health agents scouring every medical record for signs of undetected illness, and FitBits that sync personal health data with a lifetime of records in one searchable place. We imagine life science organizations empowered with corporation-like big data analytics capabilities to cure disease, and Watson-powered insights that reshape the world of medicine thanks to the accessibility of health information through a robust data system.

It is this common vision that drives us to solve for interoperability. Today, that effort – to connect data, to gain more comprehensive views of a patient’s health information, to break down records silos and to align standards – has become a more manageable process, thanks to HL7’s Fast Health Interoperability Resource (FHIR).

FHIR is a format and integration standard for accessing electronic health records. It’s an extension of HL7’s prior data formatting standards that works nicely across the siloed health care environments, because it speaks the language of the modern digital landscape. FHIR is built on RESTful APIs, JSON for structured content and other code bases and standards that essentially future proof the standard. FHIR is built to connect, and to enhance medical data in powerful and meaningful ways for providers and consumers alike.

From interconnected care plans and intelligent software agents, to automated clinical intervention and improved mobile usability, FHIR is built for a speed-driven world; it promises to save time and improve accuracy, safely, and securely. It’s changing the way we share and utilize data as an industry. And it’s no slouch in the security department either; the recently released FHIR 4 is structured to ensure that a patient’s doctors and approved family members – and only members in their approved care network – are able to access and share records.

All of this means easier, more fluid and natural data exchanges, which in turn means better decisions to support patients, citizens, and plan members. For providers, where the goal is to streamline clinical decision making, FHIR allows better understanding of patients and their backgrounds, families and their genetics, historical treatment patterns and other systematic pieces of information that can drive care delivery and improve clinical outcomes.

The catch in all of this is lagging adoption rates. While HL7 and FHIR are accepted standards in other parts of the world, they aren’t mandated in the U.S., and thus we are missing out on their full potential. If we did a better job utilizing the same tools across our industry, we could reduce the amount of incomplete health information delivered and generally improve on the services and insights we provide to patients.

Some health data companies are latching onto the trend toward interoperability, and pivoting their model to deliver FHIR-ready data from paper records. Through the technological implementation of the CDS hooks in FHIR-based applications, and by using the already widespread health information retrieval networks to gather patient data (especially at scale), it’s possible today to programmatically retrieve, extrapolate and deliver FHIR-ready data. Health companies can even help analyze the data for key findings from longitudinal outcomes for patients. This might sound more like Silicon Valley than traditional health care, but liquidity and interoperability offer us a new way to think about data.

For companies that work with legacy health records – managing the release of information and supporting medical records exchange – today’s opportunities are all about standardized and controlled open-data. With new platforms online now,  and the ability to embed more information across vendors, every health care institution should be able to retrieve and send clinical documentation anywhere across the ecosystem in a standard way.

If we can commit to standardization, we can allow for the implementation of new capabilities and new functionality more rapidly. The current number of U.S. providers who make data available through FHIR needs to grow. As our march towards interoperability persists, and more sources of information come online through interoperable formats like HL7 and FHIR, we can begin to bridge some of our most challenging information gaps.

Health technology enables us to build more efficient workflows, seek more profound insights and deliver better health care. Our systems are not perfect, and the most exciting work may yet be over a distant technological horizon. But with systems we can agree on, and systems that work (like FHIR), we are closer than yesterday to an era beyond our current imaginations that promises better health data and, one day, better health outcomes.

About Ciox
Ciox, a health technology company and proud sponsor of Healthcare IT Today, is dedicated to significantly improving U.S. health outcomes by transforming clinical data into actionable insights. Combined with an unmatched network offering ubiquitous access to healthcare data, Ciox’s expertise, relationships, technology and scale allow for the extraction of insights from structured and unstructured clinical data to create value for healthcare stakeholders. Through its HealthSource technology platform, which includes solutions for data acquisition, release of information, clinical coding, data abstraction, and analytics, Ciox helps clients securely and consistently solve the last mile challenges in clinical interoperability. Ciox improves data management and sharing by modernizing workflows and increasing the accuracy and flow of information, while providing transparency across the healthcare ecosystem and helping clients manage disparate medical records. Learn more at