A Review of Exciting New Features in FHIR’s Latest Release

With the new year, it’s time for a new version of the Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR4), including the release of a wide range of options for improving overall communications between systems. But what are these features, how can they improve the potential of EHR systems and why do they matter in the long run? Here’s a quick look at the new release and how its features can be used to your organization’s benefit.

FHIR 4’s Newest Features

  • Backwards Compatible: There’s always a risk when a new standard or new version of a standard is released that an existing past module won’t fit well or at all within that framework. FHIR4 adds backwards compatibility to the system, allowing assets developed in this iteration to be used long into the future as they will be supported in upcoming versions of the FHIR standard. This feature makes it easier for healthcare systems to justify the cost of new assets.
  • Open API: As part of the overall effort to impart EHRs with higher levels of interoperability, FHIR4 includes Open API. Open API formats allow for a wide range of unique solutions to problems faced by healthcare systems across the country. Open APIs allow developers access to the code that makes up the communications between servers and devices, improving overall interoperability in a much wider range of applications than has been available in the past.
  • Key Pieces Normative: There are a wide range of layers, formats, frameworks and resources that have become normative within this latest These include XML and JSON formats, basic datatypes, both the CodeSystem and ValueSet Terminology layers, the Structure Definition and CapabilityStatement Conformance Framework and Patient and Observation key resources.
  • RESTful API is Here: In the past, different APIs have made communication between system parts difficult because they were non-flexible. Making RESTful API normative in this release of the standard gives developers many more options to incorporate different parts of the system using the existing framework, instead of adding heavy-handed APIs that don’t deliver the performance that is needed in the fast-paced healthcare environment.
  • Lower-Risk Applications:  A certain level of acceptable risk was necessary to develop new healthcare applications in the past, considering they might be non-conformant to the standard in the future. With the changes made in FHIR4, this is no longer a concern. FHIR Product Director Graham Grieve states: “R4 is the culmination of 18 months of extensive work to finalize the base parts of the specification, and incorporate changes and enhancement requests received from implementation partners across the world. Applications that implement the normative parts of R4 no longer risk being non-conformant to the standard.”

FHIR4’s newest features have the potential to improve interoperability in many ways, and their incorporation should improve overall EHR responsiveness in the near future. At Exscribe, we have spent years developing comprehensive solutions for your EHR needs, helping orthopaedic practices take their healthcare organizations through digitization challenges and into the future. Contact us today to schedule a demo.