IoH: The Internet of Health
What is the Internet of Health?
The Internet of Things (IoT) is an IT industry term describing a system of interconnected devices such as servers, desktop computers, laptops, smartphones, watches, and more. It has become a part of not only our vernacular as a society, but of our everyday lives. While other industries have benefited greatly from the IoT, the healthcare sector is yet to take full advantage of this latest technological revolution. One of the most obvious reasons preventing healthcare from joining the revolution was a lack of a standard data format. But things are finally changing here, thanks to FHIR making good on the promise of interoperability and paving the way for the Internet of Health (IoH). Soon, devices, systems, and networks that communicate seamlessly with each other across other sectors and specializations will realize their full potential in the medical arena.
1. FHIR will deliver the Internet of Health
Health data interoperability is not a new concept. In fact, it has been a common goal amongst healthcare providers and developers for decades. Despite many advances in medical technology, to date, the promise of seamless, on-demand and real-time information exchange has yet to be realized. Finally, the FHIR (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources) standard is ready to make good on this promise to reshape the healthcare sector.
What is FHIR and how will it deliver?
The inherent potential of the internet was not realized until a universal standard was developed, allowing stakeholders to share information seamlessly, across platforms and systems, in real time. That standard was TCP IP. For healthcare, that standard is FHIR.
Today, healthcare’s capacity for interoperability can be likened to the early stages of the internet; awaiting a standard that will successfully bring together disparate systems with the ultimate goal of i mproving healthcare for patients, providers, and practitioners alike. FHIR, unlike previous attempts from other standards, has reached a stage of maturity that warrants widespread adoption, thanks to its incorporation of each of the key characteristics of a successful standard:
Dynamism: Able to adapt to new iterations without disrupting its fundamental nature, FHIR is a dynamic standard rather than a static one. Changes and updates can be proposed to the FHIR standard without damaging or disabling existing implementations and instead, expanding those in meaningful and valuable ways.
Real-world references: Rather than demand that users conform to a rigid set of perspectives, FHIR enables them to reference objects in real-world terms; providing greater freedom and ease of adoption.
It is a Search API: Using technologies that align with the way we use the internet today, FHIR allows for the seamless exchange and broadcasting of information. What’s more, developers can access the FHIR spec to deliver applications specific to the value they’re looking for.
FHIR is a peer to existing systems: A fully-fledged peer to other health data systems, FHIR provides developers with the tools required as well as the capacity to access, update, and send information to the FHIR system.
A universal solution: Standardized APIs mean that any new application can be utilized by other FHIR users. As such, an application written specifically for hospitals may be used by other hospitals, for example.
Appropriate authentication and authorization: Armed with the mechanisms for authentication and authorization, FHIR allows developers to define who can gain access to data, what data specifically they can access, and under what conditions.
Free from restrictions to legacy systems: Whilst using the latest standards, FHIR does not restrict users to a legacy system, thus allowing users to update to the relevant standards as they change, whilst encouraging consistency of development.
What is the business case for FHIR?
The already widespread adoption of FHIR should not be attributed solely to its technological capacity. There is also a strong business case to be made for payers, practitioners, and developers. Business factors contributing to the success of FHIR include:
A strong political push from both the USA and UK, including rules issued by the CMS and ONC, and the extensive use of FHIR by the NHS
Clear market motivations including the ability to do real-time analysis and build valuable applications
A broad acceptance that forward momentum is well overdue in the healthcare sector
Payers, providers, researchers and integrators are united in their appetite for collaboration (best illustrated by the Da Vinci and Argonaut projects and their development work on implementation guides and use cases)
Simplified systems thanks to fewer applications offers consistency and removes the need for users to operate dozens of applications
Allowing for patients to be a part of their own healthcare team through engagement with their providers and payers, thus making better healthcare decisions
Reduced healthcare costs thanks to better informed patients means reduced business costs for payers and providers
Using devices such as mobile phones, tablets, and computers means meeting people where they are at, for greater engagement from patients
The capacity for remote patient care means improved healthcare outcomes and reduced costs for payers and patients
FHIR ‘Profiles’ alongside a broad standard allow developers to restrict the FHIR spec to their specific clinical application without losing functionality
FHIR has the ability to capture not only health data, but incorporate administrative data such as billing–thus bridging the gap between payer and provider data
FHIR does not require users to update to the latest version, and as such, users can make decisions about upgrades based on value-add potential rather than obsolescence
Ease of use, advanced functionality, and the already broad acceptance it is experiencing across the healthcare sector mean FHIR is primed to bring the Internet of Health to the industry.
Full article: FHIR and the Promise of Interoperability
Table of contents/Highlights: