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The healthcare industry, as a whole, is getting a boost in its digital transformation progression. Now more than ever, how patients view and manage their data is becoming an immediate priority for many companies. But implementing “The Internet of Things” or IoT within the healthcare ecosystem can impact American lives more so than any other industry. Solidifying a channel that allows data to funnel between facilities, devices, and physicians can save and sustain human life.

So how are companies doing it? You may be carving out an action plan for your own digital interoperability in the new year. We’ve talked about the importance of application programming interface (API) solutions. But you may also be wondering about Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR, and pronounced “fire”) and how to leverage both. Are FHIR APIs better in the long run? We’ll explore further to help you decide. In the end, it’s the patient journey that drives the interoperability requirements. And patients having a more streamlined approach to their data for ongoing health and wellness efforts, as well as the capability to explore health insurance plans, should be the goal of every healthcare-related organization in today’s market.

Understanding the Roles of FHIR and APIs

When you talk about HL7’s FHIR, you’re essentially describing a standard regarding data formats and elements. The API is the interface point at which electronic health records (EHR) are exchanged, which is a requirement in the continuous quest to arm patients with their data seamlessly. And perhaps the hottest topic these days is the merging of these two, offering a developer-friendly API with a rich, flexible, and simple standard of data formats.

APIs are key to developing a robust data-sharing platform. But the FHIR app/API method brings more significant improvement and standardization that all participants can leverage. Communication between sources, devices, mobile apps, and more is streamlined and simplified. In a way, it’s a perfect union of standardization in healthcare data-sharing efforts.

In the old data-sharing days, private companies would use proprietary applications and servers, often with different integrations. This presented considerable challenges in terms of compatibility, a problem that the use of FHIR APIs is solving as a way to bring all providers together in one, data-sharing standard application. It allows for a host of different companies, platforms, and apps to essentially speak the same language, streamlining how patients get their data.

What Are Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources All About?

The Health Level 7 Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (HL7 FHIR) is similar to how the Open Banking and PSD2 offered sharing capabilities within the finance industry. FHIR creates a common language for every healthcare platform to use, and in turn, making it easier for those within the healthcare industry to tap into robust data sharing solutions. The primary and more fundamental building block of the FHIR is a resource. Each piece of potentially exchangeable content is considered to be a resource. Those resources can be combined or used as a stand-alone. And one primary solution the FHIR provides is its ability to eliminate the need to exchange documents and information between systems. Common and standardized URLs are provided that are recognized system-wide for easy implementation.

Open-Source Philosophy for Many Distinguished Members

The healthcare industry is fully embracing the idea of FHIR APIs and is encouraging everyone to adopt a similar strategy. FHIR is freely available with little to no restrictions, making it a no-brainer for many organizations to adopt. A few members that are already leveraging its capabilities include Partners Healthcare Systems, the Mayo Clinic, and McKesson. But you don’t have to be a member of the direct community to use the FHIR API. In fact, countless hospitals and healthcare facilities are already using SMART on FHIR apps in clinical environments like Geisinger Health, CoxHealth, Boston Children’s Hospital, and Healthcare Corporation of America.

Why Adoption of FHIR APIs is So Important

Adoption of Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources and an API solution is essential because of the direct effects it has on patients’ health and wellness and preventive care. It’s the web services approach that varying systems can use to exchange precise pieces of information, like lab results and medication lists. Before, the different platforms would have to share entire documents with each other and incorporate extra steps to sync the data in a way so that a patient could have access. FHIR is a critical step toward normalizing a version of components for everyone to use, with a backward-compatible requirement. There is flexibility and freedom to interoperability, including full read and write capabilities. The marriage of FHIR to API solutions is a reliable, scalable, and intuitive approach to healthcare data management as a whole.

Patient engagement is the ultimate and more obvious goal. And when people used to have to chase down their test results, or data that was siloed off somewhere in a private server, engagement was a challenge. But today’s interoperability, made possible by FHIR APIs, allows for that seamless flow of information, making the patient journey a more informed one. Individuals can take an immediate and active role in their healthcare, including the management of their appointments, routine scans, medications, and even health insurance plans. They can take charge directly of their personal health and have all the critical pieces in one convenient access point. And patients can transmit their personal information quickly and precisely wherever they need it, making light work of pre-authorizations at the insurance level, as well.

FHIR Bridges the Information Gap at Every Level

Imagine using an FHIR API to bridge the gap between every involved party, from provider to health insurance. Preparing for an FHIR adoption is more technical, and you may need a more digitally savvy partner to ensure you’re maximizing the potential benefits of such an FHIR API application. Contact the professionals here at Softheon to learn more about improving your company’s interoperability. Now more than ever, the healthcare industry needs to evolve digitally. And Softheon is here to help you understand your digital solutions, including those that include FHIR and FHIR APIs.