Unlocking the Potential of FHIR: An Overview of its Impact and Future

Doctor hands on tablet with hologram overlay of patient data

As the CTO of UHIN, I’ve seen firsthand the challenges and frustrations of trying to achieve seamless interoperability. Data silos, incompatible formats, and outdated standards have long hindered our ability to share information effectively. But HL7® FHIR® (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources) offers a glimmer of hope, a path toward a more connected and efficient healthcare ecosystem.

Understanding FHIR: A Paradigm Shift

FHIR represents a paradigm shift in healthcare data exchange. Unlike older standards like HL7 v2, which often resemble complex, rigid blueprints, FHIR is akin to a set of modular building blocks. These blocks, called “resources,” represent discrete units of healthcare information – a patient record, a medication order, a lab result, and so on.

The true power of FHIR lies in its flexibility. Resources can be combined and exchanged in various ways to suit specific needs. Need to share a patient’s medication history with a specialist? FHIR allows you to do that without sending the entire medical record. Want to integrate a new mobile app with your EHR system? FHIR’s web-friendly technologies make it easier than ever.

Dispelling the Myths: FHIR is NOT a Panacea

While FHIR offers immense potential, it’s important to be realistic about its limitations. It’s not a magic wand that will instantly solve all our interoperability woes.

First and foremost, FHIR is a standard, not a solution. It provides a common language for exchanging healthcare data, but it doesn’t address the underlying technical and organizational challenges that often impede interoperability.

Second, FHIR is not a plug-and-play technology. Implementing it requires careful planning, technical expertise, and collaboration among stakeholders. Organizations with legacy systems may face particularly daunting challenges.

Finally, FHIR doesn’t guarantee interoperability. While it facilitates the exchange of data, it doesn’t ensure that the data will be understood and used consistently across different systems. Achieving true interoperability requires not just technical compatibility but also semantic interoperability – the ability to interpret and apply data in a meaningful way.

The Benefits of FHIR: A Catalyst for Innovation

Despite its limitations, FHIR offers significant advantages over older standards. Its flexibility, ease of use, and strong community support make it a powerful catalyst for innovation.

By adopting FHIR, healthcare organizations can:

  • Improve data sharing: FHIR enables more granular and tailored data exchange, making it easier to share information with the right people at the right time.
  • Accelerate development: FHIR’s web-friendly technologies lower the barrier to entry for developers, potentially leading to faster innovation.

For example, UHIN’s Clinical Health Information Exchange (the CHIE)  is currently migrating to a new FHIR-enabled platform. Built on a highly scalable architecture, the platform allows for more efficient and secure sharing of data across enterprises.

The Road Ahead: A Strategic Approach to FHIR Adoption

To reap the full benefits of FHIR, healthcare organizations need to adopt a strategic approach. This involves:

  • Developing a clear roadmap: Start by defining your interoperability goals and identifying specific use cases where FHIR can add value. Transitioning totally functional workflows from older specifications to FHIR, just for the sake of using a more modern data structure, won’t create new healthcare outcomes on its own. We need to use FHIR when it’s appropriate and when it will provide the most advantage to our interoperability goals. 
  • Building a strong foundation: Invest in the necessary infrastructure, tools, and expertise to support FHIR implementation.
  • Collaborating with stakeholders: Engage with vendors, partners, and other stakeholders to ensure that FHIR implementations are aligned and interoperable.
  • Focusing on education and training: Ensure that your team has the knowledge and skills to work with FHIR effectively. While the FHIR structure can lead to an easier onboarding of software engineers, it also increases the complexity of a given use case by having multiple resources required to accomplish the same goal that a single CCDA may have solved previously. HL7 International offers online courses covering the fundamentals (for a price) and educational videos on its YouTube page here.
  • Embracing a culture of innovation: Foster a willingness to experiment and adapt as FHIR evolves. Many early adopters of FHIR were burned by the rapid change that occurred from version to version of FHIR. Knowing that there will be maturation of the standard is important to understand before starting an implementation. 

Conclusion: The Future of Healthcare Data Exchange is FHIR

FHIR is not a silver bullet, but it is a significant step forward in our quest for interoperability. By embracing FHIR and addressing the challenges it presents, we can unlock a wealth of opportunities to improve healthcare delivery, enhance patient outcomes, and drive innovation.

The future of healthcare data exchange is FHIR. Let’s seize this opportunity to build a more connected and efficient healthcare ecosystem.

Update on UHIN’s Response to the Change Healthcare Cybersecurity Event: Progress on ERA Delivery and Continued Collaboration

Dear Valued Customers,

This message serves as an update on our ongoing efforts to minimize disruption caused by the cybersecurity event at Change Healthcare (CHC), with a specific focus on Electronic Remittance Advice (ERA) delivery (835 files). We appreciate your continued patience and understanding as we work to resolve these challenges. Please click here for more information on expediting enrollment with UHIN and FAQs regarding the CHC cybersecurity event.

Collaborative Efforts to Restore ERA Delivery:

UHIN is actively working to restore consistent ERA delivery for our broader provider community. Our internal teams, including enrollment specialists, application support staff, business analysts, and software engineers, are collaborating closely with their counterparts at our clearinghouse partners. This combined effort is focused on facilitating the smooth and efficient transmission of 835 files.

Acknowledging Provider Challenges:

We understand the difficulties this outage has caused for providers who rely on timely ERAs for accurate payment reconciliation. We are committed to making significant progress in opening these critical channels for a wider range of providers.

Positive Developments and Upcoming Information:

We have made significant strides in restoring ERA delivery functionality. We will provide more detailed information and a clearer timeline for full restoration once we complete the next round of testing currently underway.

Continued Commitment and Support:

UHIN remains dedicated to resolving outstanding issues and ensuring a smooth claims processing experience for all our customers. We will continue to provide regular updates and are here to assist you. Please do not hesitate to reach out to our customer support team if you have any questions or require further assistance.

Thank you for your continued partnership.


The UHIN Team

Newsletter: May 2024 Issue

MAY 2024

For many of us, Memorial Day marks the unofficial start to summer. Hard to believe we’re heading into June! In this month’s newsletter, we look at the importance of resilient, redundant and interoperable systems, the events and webinars coming up, and we attempt to foretell everything that will happen for the rest of the year.

Remember to join us on LinkedIn for frequent news and updates!

The first half of this year was packed with exciting news and rocked by tech incidents. While we can’t predict the future, we can plan a better path ahead

Look into your crystal ball 🔮 What are your predictions (big or small) for things to come in healthcare this year? And, what are your goals that you hope to accomplish? We want to hear from you! 

John Lynn and Colin Hung look at where the industry stands just two months following the ransomware attack. For healthcare professionals, this could be a watershed moment for information security, revenue cycle management (RCM) and back-up planning for potential, future incidents.

City connected with blue lines of communication

Our most recent blog post (authored by Brian Chin, UHIN’s CEO) addresses the importance of redundant and resilient healthcare systems, and how they support seamless interoperability in times of crisis. There are, of course, great benefits and challenges when it comes to maintaining interoperability during disaster recovery (see them below👇).

September 13: Utah Medical Association (UMA) annual House of Delegates in Midvale, UT

October 15-17: Civitas Annual Conference in Detroit, MI

​​​​More to come: Stay tuned!

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We’ll host training sessions on the new CHIE platform, specifically for portal users. Stay tuned for more details on our virtual Payer Panels where you can ask questions and get answers from health plan representatives.

May is Mental Health Month. Our partners and customers offer services and solutions that can help, including AARP Utah’s mental health and wellness resources and Valley Behavioral Health’s treatment programs and services for children and youth. We invite you to learn how you can get involved all year by visiting Mental Health America.