The Colorado Health Information Exchange plans to start a proof of concept initiative to use the Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources standard to facilitate information exchange between different providers.

The test of the emerging FHIR standard, from the HL7 standards organization, is expected to go live at the end of next month in a partnership with 10.10.10., a company that works with entrepreneurs to address difficult technological challenges.

The Colorado exchange, known as CORHIO, is one of the nation’s largest, transmitting about 375,000 messages each day. In its seven years of operation, it’s built an HIE infrastructure that uses customized HL7 interfaces for accepting data in HL7 standard formats for many of the different electronic health records systems used by providers, says Morgan Honea, CEO at the exchange.

Developing customized interfaces is complex, typically involving various teams at the facility, including the EHR, project management teams and various vendors, Honea says. CORHIO is testing whether the maturing FHIR standard can facilitate the information exchange process.

“We want to reduce customization as much as possible and share standards for accessing data,” Honea explains. “We need a more turnkey transaction. Users want to integrate workflows in and out of EHR systems.”

Morgan Honea

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While CORHIO looks to FHIR for future interoperability, the HIE isn’t replacing HL7 interfaces any time soon because that’s the standard of today. However, future integration efforts will need to expand beyond hospitals to include information sources such as telemedicine platforms, patient engagement applications and care management tools to create a longitudinal patient record.

Honea describes FHIR as “standards in a box,” which could ease app development with the potential for plug-and-play development and use. “It is literally the exchange of an application programming interface protocol and will cut down on app modifications,” he contends.

The Colorado region does not have a lot of managed care but it is coming and that’s another impetus for moving to FHIR. “We need to access data for healthcare, housing, education, social services and transportation,” Honea notes. “Today, it is expensive to bring in new data points and use them for more than one single use case. We need to stop using highly customized development.”

FHIR, on the other hand, creates standard protocols for accessing specific data elements in the network. “The end result is a greater level of specificity in the data I request and receive.”

CORHIO expects the partnership with 10.10.10 will facilitate the research, because it has access to developers, innovators and entrepreneurs, along with the potential for financial backing. “Hopefully, we can try to make healthcare better for everyone,” he adds.

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