By Jörg Schwarz, director of strategy and solutions, Infor Interoperability
The COVID-19 pandemic has served as an innovation catalyst for many healthcare delivery organizations. Within a short period of time, health systems had to find ways to perform tasks they previously did not execute, such as scheduling thousands of vaccination appointments online with people that are not regular patients and delivering healthcare visits between patients and doctors electronically.
Let’s pause for a moment and acknowledge what a great achievement this burst of innovation and implementation was in an industry that chronically underfunds IT and rolls-out projects over years, not months.
However, this accelerated innovation can also present a problem – there is no going back. Patients expect online services. Patients want to book appointments like they book services for their car or food delivery: online. Patients want the option to have phone or video visits instead of waiting weeks for face-to-face visits. There is a myriad of options for new applications that promise remote patient monitoring or improved diagnostics, workflows, etc. How can a CIO in Healthcare possibly cater to all the demands for innovation when they must shell out the majority of their budget to maintain a behemoth EHR Mega suite from one of the three main vendors in the U.S. at the same time?
Fortunately, there are interoperability standards that enable just this – connecting new applications that augment the functionality of core systems and let information flow between all of them. HL7 v2 was designed for this and has been around since the 1990s. It was developed along with other EDI standards, such as X11, in an age when files where exchanges in batches or real-time when a connection was available – in other words, before the Internet age. While HL7 v2 is focused on transacting clinical data, X11 was developed to transact claims.
Much has changed in the world since the 1990s, and HL7 v2 is still the reliable de-facto standard that our healthcare system and interoperability across providers runs on in 2021. But it is not a great standard in the age of web services and mobile applications. To ensure interoperability flourishes in today’s digital age, we now have HL7 FHIR (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources). Many of the new and promising applications that allow innovative functions and workflows are based on FHIR. The introduction of FHIR creates the following set of questions for a CIO at a healthcare delivery organization that is considering his or her innovation agenda: