Time to stoke the FHIR again
It seems that almost every blog, post or article written about integration in healthcare at the moment centres on Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) – so let’s not buck a trend. This post is a bit of an update on FHIR’s progress over the last 12 months and where it looks to be going next.
FHIR is shaping up to be a great standard. A vast amount of work has gone into developing not just the standard, but frameworks that software vendors may use to trial its use with their software. FHIR servers are available for many modern programming platforms. It combines modern, RESTful web services with an easy-to-consume data model which will provide plug ‘n’ play interoperability between conformant systems. It will replace the reliance on point-to-point, or even point-to-hub, integration and help pave the way towards best of breed systems sharing data to achieve real benefit for patients.
The main concern with FHIR at the last time of writing was with its status as a draft standard. The FHIR governance executive has set out 3 statuses which FHIR versions will adhere to:
- Draft Standard for Trial Use (DSTU)
The main difference between the three is stability. When FHIR was a draft, it was subject to major change, leaving early adopters prone to having invested in a technology which would be orphaned. Once DSTU status is achieved, there is more of an adherence to a format which will be retained moving forwards. Some features may be changed, without retaining any backwards compatibility, but there is far less risk for those willing to channel resources into implementation. Once the normative version is released, backwards compatibility is guaranteed. The current version is DSTU#2 and there is a tacit commitment that this will be the last version prior to a normative version being released.
So when do we expect to see a normative version released?
FHIR versions are released on an 18-24 month cycle, so the published target date is 2017, but this will depend almost entirely on adoption of DSTU#2 and, crucially, feedback from these implementers on the feature set.
Fortunately, the industry backing is not restricted to small software houses and guys with propeller hats. Adding to the work of Project Argonaut, the collaboration of some of the biggest names in healthcare IT, governments and their agencies are now starting to offer interfaces built using FHIR. In Australia, for example, the National eHealth Transition Authority (NeHTA) are re-architecting their core systems and a major component of their model-to-be will be FHIR.
All in all, the stars are aligning for FHIR. You heard it here, but not for the first time.
Dominic Green - National Operations Manager ANZ, Sláinte Healthcare