Interoperability reality check: FHIR, population health and the patient experience
The year 2016 was a big one for interoperability — particularly FHIR (Fast Health Interoperability Resources) development and the implications the emerging standard has for EHRs, health information exchange and population health. Even still, hospital CIOs and IT executives face a number of pressing questions.
"The major EHR and interoperability vendors embraced FHIR with enthusiasm, and many are now delivering working technology previews," said Greg Kuhnen, senior director of research at Advisory Board. “That’s remarkable progress for a standard that has no regulatory mandate or direct financial incentive.”
With the first official release of FHIR expected to become available for mainstream use in 2017, that momentum is poised to continue if not accelerate. And with the partnership between Carequality and the CommonWell Health Alliance — which Kuhnen called “the proverbial golden spike that unites the two competing nationwide exchange networks — a foundation is being laid for wider health information exchange.
And as it has become clear since HIMSS16 this past year, EHR vendors backing FHIR and growing HIE networks are setting the stage for data-intensive initiatives such as population health, precision medicine, and value-based payment models. Likewise, value-based payments and quality reporting incentives are creating greater demand for information across the entire care continuum.
"CIOs need to understand the business and clinical importance of data exchange within their systems so they can build a case for strategic investments in interoperability," Kuhnen said.
Indeed, as EHR vendors adopt and hospitals implement electronic health records software that uses FHIR to advance interoperability and HIE, the functionality that enables will open new opportunities to better serve healthcare consumers.
"If the goal of interoperability is to create a cohesive record and experience, then we must also recognize that the value of a seamless, loyalty-building and efficient experience outweighs any level of technical interoperability," said Hollie Freeman, managing director of technology at Advisory Board. "We must intentionally keep the view of the patient and family at the center and build experiences and interoperability around that principle."
Freeman explained that such experiences will ultimately overlay FHIR, EHR and HIE underpinnings, while Kuhnen added that interoperability will one day fade into the background as a technological enabler.
"How can interoperability help us keep a consumer centric point of view?" Freeman asked. "Solving hospital and health systems’ process problems is important, but the gains will only come if the experience is seamless for the consumer."
Freeman will be at the Interoperability Showcase discussing this and other matters at HIMSS17.
HIMSS17 runs from Feb. 19-23, 2017 at the Orange County Convention Center.
This article is part of our ongoing coverage of HIMSS17. Visit Destination HIMSS17 for previews, reporting live from the show floor and after the conference.