Our four recommendations for near-term actions around your API architecture pursuits.

Integration is innovation. And, with the pursuit of Meaningful Use Stage 3, mandating access for patients to their healthcare information via Application Program Interfaces (APIs), interoperability has never been more vital.

There is an ever-increasing demand for better access to more discrete information across disparate systems.

Health Level 7 (HL7) has been invaluable in allowing the transfer of clinical and administrative data. But, right behind HL7 version 2 is the potential of FHIR – Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources.

We’ve been hot on FHIR for some time and, recently, we talked to a host of industry sources and clients to see what others think of each standard and their plans for the future.

This Point of View gives our top-line views when comparing HL7 against FHIR, as well as our recommendations for near-term actions around your API architecture pursuits.

Healthcare is in full-speed adoption of Meaningful Use Stage 3 and, we believe, HL7 is leading the way with FHIR


View 1: FHIR is Easier and Cheaper.

FHIR is compatible with RESTful Web Services, but HL7 V2 is not service-based. Rather, it relies on legacy message-based communication technologies. This is important because RESTful web services are lighter, easier to use and built around resources. That means FHIR requires less bandwidth, can be more easily secured, offers faster adoption and an easier learning curve to implement.

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View 2: Services are More Secure than Messages.

HL7 messages do not offer a well-structured exchange. Additionally, HL7 does not specify a communications protocol and only includes the message part of an exchange. With FHIR’s specification of RESTful web services, reliability and security standards are industry standards based, reducing your efforts and spend involved in communications and development. The use of RESTful web services also means that FHIR can fit well into your IT strategy to move towards an SOA-based enterprise architecture that offers more on-time communications of smaller sets of data. The FHIR standard provides guidelines and real-world code samples that help shape your pathway towards an API-based architectural approach. Blending this in with your existing systems, and using FHIR as a catalyst for your legacy modernization efforts, can help establish a more modular and solutions-based approach for your overall enterprise.

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View 3: FHIR is Moving Quickly towards Implementation.

Investigative proof of concept work is going on now, as well as smaller engagements that are active already. Plus, medical record companies are exploring and prototyping updates in preparation for the new norm.

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View #4: FHIR Brings Significant Potential for Healthcare IT (HIT).

While FHIR offers the ability to adopt modular standards, it also enables targeted implementations at a reduced cost. Ease of use and time-to-market potential through FHIR standards and real-life code makes it a powerful choice for the future of HIT. Lastly, resources to implement and maintain FHIR integration would be less expensive than HL7. FHIR implementation can be done with smaller teams built upon standards that are easier to adopt.

FHIR will become the next standard

Traditional healthcare organizations are faced with changing their business and operating models to compete with a new ecosystem. And, as patients assert their data demands, and payers and providers adopt financial and care models based on the transfer of discreet data, we believe that FHIR will become the next standard.

FHIR is a tool geared towards healthcare transformation by using existing technologies in an easy-to-adopt and scalable “app-like” environment. Additionally, FHIR offers data-level access that moves us away from the unwieldy and costly integration of document-based exchange architecture.

How can you take advantage of FHIR and prepare today?

Consider these next steps.

  • Leverage FHIR as an add-on for new integrations.
  • Take advantage of standards adopted and apply them as you sunset other integrations towards newer standards.
  • Drive maturity in a service-oriented architecture made easier through FHIR.

Looking forward, SDLC Partners can help healthcare organizations set up their architecture strategy using an API approach that aligns with FHIR. At a higher level, we will continue to help break down cultural, political, and technical challenges healthcare organizations face as they weather failed proprietary integrations and legacy software concerns.

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