Report suggests US health IT approaching FHIR tipping point


New US analysis suggests the country is approaching a “turning point” in the implementation of interoperability standards for health IT.

A report compiled by Health IT Buzz examined how many health IT developers used FHIR to meet certification requirements, and how many hospitals and clinicians access services which use the HL7 FHIR API.

It concluded around 32% of the health IT developers were using Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR), specifically FHIR Release 2, for certification requirements.

The report pointed out that, while this figure appeared low, health IT developers that used the FHIR standard represented vendors that boasted a large market share, such as Allscripts, Cerner, Epic and MediTech.

As such, about 82 percent of hospitals and 64 percent of clinicians use these developers’ FHIR-certified products.

Health IT Buzz – where the US report was published – is a blog run by HealthIT.gov, the official website of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC).

The report concluded: “While these data are encouraging, it’s not time to pop any champagne. Industry-wide, much work remains from standards development to implementation.”

In August, Apple, Amazon, IBM, Microsoft and Salesforce announced they would work together to drive common standards for exchanging health information.

This came after Apple launched its FHIR-compliant Health Records feature in its iOS 11.3 firmware update, which it subsequently opened up to third-party developers in a move to let iPhone users share health data with other apps.

In England, open standards have been championed fiercely by health and social care secretary Matt Hancock, who has suggested that health IT vendors who do not comply face the chopping block.

There have been signs that more UK suppliers are beginning to embrace interoperability through FHIR and SNOMED-CT, although some industry veterans remain sceptical of Hancock’s vision for an open-standard nirvana in the NHS.

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