FHIRWorks rocks the Epic campus

'The breadth and depth of the solutions that people have created is quite remarkable'
By Bernie Monegain
10:30 AM
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Fireworks

There's nothing like a developer event to get the crowd fired up. At least that's how the hosts and the keynote speaker at the FHIRWorks' event at the Epic campus last week described it.

About 5,000 people, among them Epic employees, developers and users, turned up for the happening last week on the Epic headquarters in Verona, Wis., a small town, about 10 miles from Madison.

The developers accounted for the smallest group, about 75 of them, but they generated the most excitement.

It's the first time Epic invited users to the campus for this type of event, Epic President Carl Dvorak told Healthcare IT News.

"We have done it internally," he said. "It's the first time we have invited people from the user community to come and do it together. The customers worked shoulder to shoulder with people at Epic to work through their ideas and explanations and their innovations," he said.

FHIR has been part of the Epic EHR system since the 2014 version, and it was updated to the newest draft in 2015.

Dvorak noted that Epic has been involved in the development of FHIR through the HL-7 Argonaut Project, along with other key EHR vendors, such as Cerner and MEDITECH and providers such as Partners HealthCare and Intermountain Health.

[See also: Epic, Cerner, others join HL7 project.]

End user innovation has been a rich part of the Epic heritage, Dvorak said.

"It's why today's most sophisticated health systems use Epic," he added. "It's because they can innovate on it as a platform, as well as use it as an application."

HL7 CEO Charles Jaffe, MD, champion in chief of FHIR, was keynote speaker for the event.

"It's really an important milestone for me in transforming FHIR from a concept into something that the breadth and depth of the solutions that people have created is quite remarkable," he said.

"There are plans for open APIs. It's a bi-directional event," Jaffe said. "It's not simply getting clinical data out of electronic medical records. It's not just informing clinical research protocol design. It's about writing back to the electronic health record so we have a continuous learning process."

Jaffe said he saw "remarkable" applications developed within this framework while at the FHIRWorks gathering.

Each developer had a chance to show what he or she has done, and Jaffe said he was impressed with some unique applications.

"The tried-and-true one," he noted, "is we take clinical data, or laboratory data, and we put it in a dashboard so the clinicians can more easily consume it."

Among what Jaffe saw:

  • Mayo Clinic is developing a FHIR-based app for wound management.
  • Geisinger is using rheumatology app it developed. "If you've seen the app, if you've seen what it can do," Jaffe said. "You understand how it can work seamlessly without an interface or Epic, Cerner or athena. That should be enough. But the punch line was that it cost $17,000 to develop it."
  • Unique dashboards that extract clinical data from multiple systems so the caregiver does not have to thumb through pages – whether it's literally on paper or virtually on a screen – and they can demonstrate the continuity, and it looks seamless.

[See also: Interoperability: Now Geisinger has an app for that.]

Of the audience, Jaffe said, "This reflected a level of enthusiasm that I've rarely experienced."

The high-note of FHIRWorks for Dvorak? "To see the excitement in the user community and the amazing things that they're able to accomplish with very minimal effort because we support this important standard," he said.

"What FHIR represents to us," he added, "is the ability for thousands of innovators across the country to add their special innovation on Epic as a platform for healthcare purposes," he said. "And, they can use FHIR to do things that are focused on patient engagement. They can use FHIR to do things that can help their clinicians in specialty practices or in complex situations, visualize the data differently. They can create specialty calculators. They can create all sorts of dashboards. They can affect workflow."

"It's a partner in how development can be done."

[See also: Interoperability's 'game-changer'.]