FHIR Optimism – Is It Misplaced?

Posted on July 9, 2015 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

We’ve all seen the optimism around FHIR. I even wrote the cheeky post titled FHIR is on Fire. I think that observation is still accurate. If you mention the word FHIR, then people start listening. I saw a number of sessions at HIMSS on FHIR and there was a lot of interest. I actually think that many people were (and are) still trying to figure out how FHIR is different from all the previous HL7 versions, but there was a definite interest in learning about it.

Admittedly, I’m still working to understand FHIR as well. However, in all the learning I’ve done, FHIR feels like more of the same. Certainly it’s a step forward from previous HL7 iterations. I think that it has much more robust capabilities. There is a lot to like about FHIR and I don’t want to thwart people’s efforts to bring it to light.

As I’ve thought about this more though, I don’t think FHIR is the coming of interoperability. Here’s what I asked in today’s #KareoChat:

I think most would agree that the reason we don’t have healthcare data interoperability yet has almost nothing to do with the technology. It has everything to do with political and economic reasons why healthcare organizations didn’t (and many still don’t) want to share data. I’m quite sure that if there was a political and financial reason to share data it would happen very quickly.

Assuming you agree with this premise, why then do we think that a new tech standard (FHIR in this case) will change those dynamics? Will FHIR be so plug and play obvious that healthcare executives will start being embarrassed for not sharing data when it’s so easy? My past experience with healthcare standards say that won’t be the case. FHIR will be a technical improvement over what we have today, but still will require a lot of effort.

I’d love to be proven wrong on this. Do you have a different view? I’d love to learn in the comments.