Observations from Two Days of FHIR

By Jimmy Lu, Senior Software Engineer

I’ve always known FHIR was going to be a powerful tool in interoperability in healthcare, but it wasn’t until I arrived at FHIR Connectathon 16 in San Diego a few weeks ago that it really cemented itself in my mind. The FHIR Connectathon is a development program that brings together FHIR spec-creators, implementers, and aficionados to explore interoperability via live-testing scenarios.

FHIR is a standard describing interoperable data formats and an API for exchanging health records, which was created by Health Level Seven International (HL7) health-care standards organization. Technically speaking, it is an open specification created by HL7 for exchanging healthcare related information using modern technologies such as, but not limited to, XML, JSON, and REST.

Earlier this year, ABILITY launched a partner program for its new FHIR-based API. This API helps support the scale and performance required for high-volume, high-availability applications, while enabling partner-specific data transformation. This new FHIR-based API reduces the amount of time and resources customers need to spend on development, while enabling more reliable software and integrations – all of which helps ensure faster time to market.

As part of the ABILITY team working on the FHIR API, the FHIR Connectathon offered a great opportunity to see how we can build on our use of FHIR and also share our experience with the FHIR community to further develop the financial management piece of the specification. There were many great aspects of Connectathon, but one overarching element really resonated.

Interacting with the energetic and incredibly smart people at the FHIR Connectathon gave me a sense that we really are making strides in improving the future of healthcare. Through venues like these, I could see, very concretely, that by working together we can make healthcare information sharing as efficient and smooth as possible.

Here is an example of what I mean. The FHIR Financial Management track table included engineers from a variety of companies, some working on solutions for payers, some working on solutions for providers, and some working on patient-oriented products. However, we were able to compare notes on how we each implemented our FHIR solutions and came to the realization that a U.S. healthcare-based FHIR profile is what’s desperately needed to tie our FHIR ecosystems together. With that knowledge, we now know what to strive for and work towards.

I also worked with developers and project managers from numerous other companies who are all working on using FHIR to provide unique services for patients, providers, and payers alike.  I see great collaboration opportunities for working with them outside of the FHIR Connectathon to try and solve some of these common challenges together.

I think many of us working day-to-day on projects for ABILITY don’t always have the chance to pull away and really see the exciting work our company is supporting in the healthcare industry as a whole. The FHIR Connectathon provided me that, and I am reinvigorated by the opportunity ahead to help further simplify a complex healthcare landscape.