In healthcare management, integration of EHR and EMR can transform the practice. EMR integration offers a myriad of benefits to providers, including seamless interoperability. All the stakeholders in a care setting are benefitted too. However, integration of EMR is challenging due to the lack of accessibility of information systems and patient health data. And to eliminate these challenges, ONC for HIT formulated some policies to ensure easy access to information and data transparency to improve overall care.
FHIR or Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources is one such ONC policy that integrated with EMR boosts easy data access and sharing across platforms through API. FHIR EMR integration allows external entities to access information from providers’ EMR. Besides, these entities can design their applications to access the EMR server for data. Health care CIOs and leaders promote FHIR EMR integration to improve organizational interoperability.
Further, many leaders have pointed out that FHIR is a standard to improve modern healthcare interoperability, ensure flexibility and better functionality than just EMR/EHR. Although it’s pretty new yet FHIR will rise in the future. This way, FHIR enhances practice management as well.
So, if you’re thinking of FHIR EMR integration, you need to understand the potential challenges and identify your practice’s needs. EMR software systems integrated with FHIR are possible through a simplified process. Here are more details about it.
Challenges in FHIR-EMR Implementation
Healthcare providers are plagued with multiple challenges in FHIR EMR Integration, and these roadblocks impact the EMR interoperability or electronic data exchange. However, the three major obstacles impacting Fast Healthcare Interoperability Solutions integration are here.
1. Time Consuming Process
Healthcare interoperability is critically important today to improve patient care through the appropriate data. FHIR solutions integrated with EMR take care of data access, sharing, and analysis. But the real challenge is its lengthy process. FHIR EMR integration and implementation is a time-consuming process. Many providers are skeptical that such a time-consuming process will impact other healthcare solutions, including increasing their costs.
2. High Cost of Adoption
Similar to the time-consuming aspect, FHIR EMR integration also has high cost of adoption. Small-scale healthcare providers are mostly affected by this obstacle. Moreover, the high cost of adoption also affects the complete health system. So, leaders suggest that practitioners willing to implement FHIR can go for EMR software companies or vendors to customize this as per the budget and requirements.
3. Lack of technical resources
Another significant roadblock in FHIR EMR integration is the absence of adequate technical support. EMR integration with HL7 FHIR requires technical expertise, and care practices need HIT support. Apart from implementing, handling the software also requires specialized knowledge. So, the best providers can invest in vendors and train their staff on FHIR solutions.
4. Patient Matching
Patient matching or identity matching is one of the major aspects of FHIR EMR integration in healthcare. It simply links patient data across various healthcare systems to create holistic medical EMR systems. But errors in this process can impact healthcare organizations, as it can lead to HIPAA violations and cost millions of dollars. And linking the patient data manually will increase the chances of errors. So, it’s essential to automate the process that can identify similarities in data elements to ensure accuracy in the FHIR- EMR systems.
5. Security Issues
In fast healthcare interoperability resources, security is a big concern. Developers and providers need to ensure HIPAA compliance, and for that, they need to take effective measures. In FHIR implementation, providers must set up an authentication and accessibility control to ensure high security. Along with that, providers must also include input validation procedures, write data management policies, and digital signatures. These can ensure the security of FHIR EMR integration. Ensuring these aspects can be complicated, but it’s important for FHIR in healthcare. Outsourcing security support can be a great option in this case.
Benefits of EMR FHIR Integration in Healthcare
Integrated healthcare solutions offer multiple benefits to improve the clinical and non-clinical processes undertaken by the provider. Similarly, EMR and FHIR integrated solutions benefit providers in numerous ways. Here are some notable benefits acknowledged by healthcare providers.
1. Data Structuring Automation
Healthcare automation is gaining momentum these days. And with FHIR EMR integration, providers can easily automate data structuring, otherwise a time-consuming process. FHIR solutions assure clinical support to providers in managing and structuring their health data. Moreover, automated data structuring promotes value-based care services that improve patient engagement systems and experiences.
2. Enhanced Interoperability and data management
Data management in todays’ care context is a critical task. Providers resort to medical informatics and healthcare analytics solutions for effective medical records management. Even FHIR healthcare integrated into EMR is much better, as it enhances healthcare interoperability solutions and manages data. And effective data management means accuracy, easy accessibility, and smooth sharing of patient health information. Whatever is the data resource, FHIR has a unique identifier for each. This simplifies the data accessibility process and allows control from every type of device.
3. Special Attention to Patient experience
FHIR solutions aim to improve care delivery through effective data management. EHR and EMR systems integrated with FHIR allow providers to extract, share and analyze crucial patient data in the care continuum for better diagnosis. Moreover, FHIR also offers patients control over their data to make informed decisions. Empowering patients and providers with data and interoperability eventually enhance the patient experience.
4. Improved clinical results
In clinical researches, data is crucial. From population health management to predictive analysis, health data is what clinical researchers need the most. Moreover, clinical researchers can improve their care delivery and patient experience with accurate data. And FHIR EMR integration aids clinicians in accessing and sharing essential patient data securely, thus improving clinical results.
5. Enhanced Data Mining
Data mining is relevant today, considering how important data is for healthcare decision-making. Indeed, mining data from various credible sources to form effective and impactful insights can be truly helpful for decision-makers. And as many healthcare organizations use AI and Machine Learning models to gain insights from datasets, it’s important to have a standard. That’s only possible through FHIR integrations. FHIR can enable providers to create large data sets from various sources, which can also be used for delivering quality care and clinical research.
6. Improved Data Integrations
Whether it’s the integration of new capabilities into your legacy systems or transitioning from a centralized to a decentralized system, FHIR can simplify these integrations effectively. The FHIR APIs provide a standard point to map all integrations. Even if the integrations are from a non-FHIR system, these APIs ensure standardization to ensure interoperability. Besides, FHIR healthcare can make integrations more streamlined, efficient, and cost-effective.
How to Simplify EMR to FHIR Integration Process
Now that you know, FHIR EMR integration directly empowers providers to achieve interoperability in the systems. However, as we mentioned earlier, the FHIR implementation is time-consuming and even adds financial pressure to the adoption process. However, you can simplify EMR FHIR integration by these methods-
1. Configuring EMR interface
Medical EMR integration with FHIR isn’t possible without configuring the EMR interface. Providers need to know about the different source and target systems for accurate data exchange. Clinical data that comes into the system has a source- patients’ wearables or apps, other health facilities or clinical surveys, feedback, and so on. Providers need to know this source which gets reflected on the EHR EMR interface. The interface will also highlight the target, where the data is transported to.
2. Define Data Route
EMR systems in healthcare are complicated due to their massive amount of data. And the patient EMR systems integration with FHIR requires defining the data route to understand the sources and targets. This is the next step of EHR/EMR integration with FHIR. Naming the source system is essential before the data proceeds to the routing stage. Healthcare organizations, indeed, receive a lot of patient data throughout. However, before this data is sent out to the target, it undergoes some basic operations like decryption, compression, or character conversion. This makes all data in the same format and ready for the routing stage.
3. Route Data to Target System
In EMR software integration with FHIR, routing data to target systems is crucial. It’s essential to decide which target system will proceed with the data extracted from the source system. Well, healthcare developers consider this as a two-fold process. While the first step is to determine the specific target system, the second is to focus on what to do if there are errors. Providers can easily identify errors by deploying transaction monitors in the set interface.
4. Map data and Change to XML format
Integrating EMR systems with FHIR is incomplete without mapping source and target data and transforming it into a common XML format. FHIR organizations mostly use the Data Mapper tool to map the data as per HL7 standards. It helps map from the database to HL7, FHIR, and the final file. And further, all patient information data is converted into a standardized XML format. This configuration of the XML transformation module makes the data ready to be transported.
5. Data Transport
Another essential aspect of healthcare EMR integration with FHIR is data transportation. It simply means how the data is going to be sent. However, before that, a series of processes take place. It includes encryption, compressing the data, or, if required, manipulations. After these, the data transportation to the target system can happen. Well, this transportation of patient information includes two steps- first, the target system must do an HTTP post to a specific URL, and the second is to send out an HL7 message over the MLLP. Only after this the target system can be named. And that completes the data transportation process.
6. Test interface
Testing the EMR FHIR integration interface is crucial before deploying it. Once the interface configuration and data routing is done, one can switch to testing mode. There isn’t any specific point to start the testing; however, it’s better to begin at the source transform stage. Also, you need to choose a sample data file to execute the testing. Testing the interface is beneficial for providers, as any errors can be identified and fixed before the deployment. Besides, the green checkmark indicates that testing of the stage is complete, and a red X indicates failures.
7. Deploy Interface
With test runs done, you can deploy the interface to ensure the successful completion of EMR FHIR integration. After the testing phase, providers can return to the file management dialog and decide what to do with the interface. Another note is that all configurations will be stored in plain XML format and folders. On deploying the interface, providers can benefit from FHIR, which will ensure healthcare interoperability. Besides, with FHIR-integrated EMR platforms, healthcare providers can effectively share and analyze patient information and other clinical data to improve health outcomes.
FHIR EMR integration is gaining popularity today, as it helps providers achieve the most challenging solution interoperability. There is no doubt that healthcare interoperability challenges many gaps in care delivery and assures better outcomes. FHIR solutions integrated with EMR interoperability and eventually the health system. Accurate and safe data extraction and sharing across multiple care settings is standardized using FHIR healthcare. So, start your FHIR EMR integration planning and explore your requirements. Healthcare interoperability companies offering this service can also help providers improvise their EMR/EHR systems. Moreover, providers can also keep cloud computing solutions handy in case of additional data storage. Besides, there’s no debate that HL7v2 is an outdated standard. And to achieve seamless interoperability, FHIR is a must. Its open source and human readability capabilities can transform the data-sharing aspects. It will eventually enhance health outcomes and patient experience.
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Written by Riken Shah linkedin
Riken's work motto is to help healthcare providers use technological advancements to make healthcare easily accessible to all stakeholders, from providers to patients. Under his leadership and guidance, OSP Labs has successfully developed over 600 customized software solutions for 200+ healthcare clients across continents.