It has been more than a decade that the practice of storing personal health information by medical professionals in electronic form has become prevalent. However, it becomes quite a tedious process for patients to gather such computer and paper records from doctors’ chambers, hospitals and medical labs,.
All that could change for the good as tech giants seek to intervene into this aspect of the health care industry, prodding players in this segment to adopt an internet-based common standard that can be used for storing and sharing of information of patients.
It is come to be known as Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources or FHIR for short.
An electronic health record market estimated to reach $38 billion by 2025 is being created because of the fast growing demand for freer exchange of health care, say industry analysts.
And Silicon Valley tech giants such as Apple and Google are eyeing a piece of that potential market given its huge possible size and growth opportunities for the early birds in the industry. Other tech based companies reportedly in the race include Amazon and Microsoft. Additionally, there are a number of other smaller startups offering FHIR-based apps and services to companies in the health care industry and health care professionals.
The basic concept of the FHIR is to allow doctors, other health care professionals, hospitals and other companies to in sharing specific pieces of information about patients such as symptoms, procedures or diagnoses, but not handing over entire sets of private medical documents of patients. There is a unique identifier for every discrete chunk of data that allows patients, doctors and researchers to gather such information about specific patients through any device or browser, irrespective of the servers or places where such data is stored.
However this concept of FHIR has also been criticized and resisted in the health care industry. According to Micky Tripathi, chairperson of the advisory council of Health Level Seven International, a not-for-profit developer of electronic health information standards that created FHIR, very little business incentives as well as low advocacy by health care providers in helping to create the required demand for adoption of FHIR was present in the industry until recently.
“Change will come incrementally over time, not overnight,” Tripathi said. “The older standards, though inferior, have the advantage that they are in use today and the cost of ripping and replacing them is not worth the added benefit.”
Further, in an effort to retain patients, the very concept of data sharing have been blocked by some hospitals and medical clinics by blocking transfer of information completely. Financial penalties for firms and organizations engaging in such behavior was passed by the United States Congress in 2016. However, that has not been able to completely eliminate resistance to FHIR.
“There have been roadblocks that prevent innovations and data from being widely shared where it could benefit patients,” said Julia Adler-Milstein, director of the Center for Clinical Informatics and Improvement Research at the University of California-San Francisco.
However tech giants are now pushing the agenda. A FHIR Server for Azure was recently released by Microsoft with the aim of attracting clients form the health care industry to its cloud services.
With the aim of enhancing coordination among health care systems with the help of FHIR and well as to develop methods of collecting and managing patient-generated health data, a partnerhisp was struck between Google and the American Medical Association recently.
And FHIR is used to let consumers download data from their health care providers in Apple’s Health Records app.
Guidance for health care data specialists using FHIR is being offered by Amazon Comprehend Medical through Amazon Web Services.
Support for FHIR has also been expressed by six big tech companies — Microsoft, Google, Amazon, IBM, Oracle and Salesforce, and the companies have advocated a broader sharing of health care data through a government-endorsed project called Blue Button.
(Adapted from BusinessInsider.com)