For behavioral health providers that use electronic health records (EHRs), interoperability is becoming increasingly important.
Many behavioral health and addiction treatment patients receive care from different providers. These providers may all use different EHR systems, and yet must all access and understand the patient’s health data. Data also need to be structured and standardized to be useful to machine-based processing.
The Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resource (FHIR, pronounced “fire,”) is a standard for exchanging electronic healthcare information. It is becoming a popular option to improve interoperability.
EHR standards may seem complicated and intimidating, but providers that exchange data with each other can benefit from learning about FHIR basics.
What is FHIR?
HL7 International, a not-for-profit standards developing organization, developed FHIR to address the challenges of sharing complex healthcare data. HL7 designed FHIR to be used on its own, but may also be paired with existing standards.
FHIR is designed to allow data access in a way similar to how we use URLs to access web pages. Consider how each individual web page has a specific URL. Anyone who uses a standard browser (such as FireFox or Chrome) and a standard operating system (such as Windows or Mac) can access that same page and perform the same tasks with that URL.
FHIR is built to do something similar with healthcare data. Different health data elements, or “resources,” are tagged with a unique identifier, similar to a URL. The FHIR standard is designed to help developers build standardized applications that act as a “browser” that allows access to data no matter what EHR “operating system” is used.
How is FHIR used?
“FHIR resources can be used to build documents that represent a composition: a coherent set of information that is a statement of healthcare information, including clinical observations and services,” HL7 explains. “Documents built in this fashion may be exchanged between systems and persisted in document storage and management systems.”
FHIR is designed specifically for web-based use. FHIR-based apps can be used with any FHIR-capable EHR. This means it can be applied to mobile apps, cloud communications, and EHR-based data sharing. Currently, most usage of FHIR-based apps involves expanding EHR functionality and allowing patients to download and use their own health records.
According to HIMSS, several projects are examining the use of FHIR to improve interoperability:
The Argonaut Project, between HL7 and several healthcare organizations and vendors, aims to develop protocols and tools to expand health information sharing using FHIR
The Health Services Platform Consortium is focused on building an open platform based on FHIR to allow rapid development of healthcare applications
FHIR is not yet in full use, but it shows promise in helping EHR vendors and healthcare providers achieve better interoperability and care coordination. Because of this, behavioral health providers looking to adopt a new EHR system should make sure the solution you choose incorporates FHIR for current or future use.
Use an EHR that accommodates current standards
Behavioral health providers can help their practice achieve greater interoperability by choosing an EHR system that follows appropriate standards.
BestNotes offers EHR and CRM solutions tailored specifically for behavioral health and addiction treatment providers, with features that help you collaborate and exchange information with those who need it. Contact us today to learn more or schedule a demo!