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ONC Celebrates FHIR-Powered Interoperability Demonstrations

The ability of health IT standard FHIR to enable data aggregation form disparate health IT systems was on display at a recent event outside the nation’s capital.

By Kyle Murphy, PhD

- The Connected Health Conference at National Harbor in Maryland was the site of a recent demonstration of Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources and its ability to enable health data liquidity.

ONC promotion of FHIR

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology along with EHR vendors Allscripts, Cerner Corporation, and Epic Systems took part in a live demonstration of consumer applications that import data from health IT systems using the set of technical specifications and application programming interface that make up FHIR.

“We are incredibly encouraged by the advances our private sector partners have made to unlock data and empower individuals when it comes to accessing their medication information,” National Coordinator Vindell Washington, MD, MHCM, said in a public statement. “This is just the latest example of the health IT progress and infrastructure that has resulted from public-private collaboration over the past eight years to improve the health and care of individuals and communities.”

The aforementioned EHR vendors joined CareEvolution, Medisafe, and RxRevu in showing how FHIR use can pull data from these EHR technologies and make that information available to the latter’s consumer-friendly applications.

According to the ONC statement, the live demonstration is the byproduct of the interoperability pledge that Allscripts, Cerner, Epic, and other health IT and healthcare organizations agreed to earlier this year which consisted of three core commitments:

Consumer Access: To help consumers easily and securely access their electronic health information, direct it to any desired location, learn how their information can be shared and used, and be assured that this information will be effectively and safely used to benefit their health and that of their community.

No Blocking/Ensuring Transparency: To help providers share individuals’ health information for care with other providers and their patients whenever permitted by law, and not block electronic health information (defined as knowingly and unreasonably interfering with information sharing).

Standards: Implement federally recognized, national interoperability standards, policies, guidance, and practices for electronic health information, and adopt best practices including those related to privacy and security.

Around that same time, the federal agency announced two interoperability challenges with prizes totaling $625,000 and targeting the development of FHIR-enabled applications. “It reflects our guiding principles that consumers and providers should have easy, secure access to health information and the ability to direct that information when and where it is needed most,” former ONC chief Karen DeSalvo, MD, MPH, MSc said at the time.

The ONC work to promote the development of applications using FHIR specifically dovetails with its regulatory efforts to promote the use of APIs in the 2015 Edition Health IT Certification Criteria, which the federal agency intend to advance “the accessibility and exchange of data by including enhanced data export, transitions of care, and application programming interface (API) capabilities in the 2015 Edition Base Electronic Health Record (EHR) definition” among other goals.

The public-private nature of the live demonstration of FHIR use is a determining factor in whether the health IT standard will achieve its full potential, as HL7 CEO Charles Jaffe, MD, PhD, told HealthITInteroperability.com in August. "ONC is entirely behind the use of FHIR, but the fact is that the marketplace will decide the utility of FHIR," he said.

The support of leading EHR vendors, therefore, bodes well for the health IT standard.

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