Should my EHR speak FHIR?

Well, there are still health IT systems that do not speak FHIR. They speak other standard languages, such as HL7 version 3 and CCDA. But it would make your life a whole lot easier if your health IT system does speak FHIR. On this page we will explain why. But first we will explain the difference between: 1. electronic health record (EHR), 2. electronic medical record (EMR) and 3. personal health record (PHR).

The differences between an EHR, EMR and PHR

An EHR, an EMR and a PHR are all digital versions of a patient chart. The terms EHR and EMR are often confused. The main differences between them are as following:

  1. You can use an EHR across more than one health care organization. An EHR conforms to national recognized interoperability standards.
  2. You can use an EMR within one organization. An EMR is not designed to share information outside the individual practice.
  3. A PHR is a digital view on the patient chart designed for the patient. A PHR can contain data from many sources. Like the EHR, a PHR conforms to national recognized interoperability standards.

Is FHIR the future of Health IT?

Imagine your EHR is capable of talking to any health IT system and any health app. For example, patients may use health apps to record measurements like blood pressure. It may be valuable to include (patterns of) these data in your EHR, EMR or PHR. The migration of data from one IT system to another can be very costly, error prone and time consuming. Many health apps conform to FHIR technology. This makes it easy and cheap to connect to them if your EHR supports FHIR. SMART on FHIR offers a set of open specifications to integrate apps with health IT systems. Several major EHR vendors have already adopted FHIR technology in their systems. It will be a matter of time before others will follow.

National standardization projects

Many countries are now initiating standardization projects at a national level. The main technology used in these standardization projects is FHIR. For example, in the US, big EHR vendors (i.e. EPIC and Cerner) have initiated the Argonaut project. The Argonaut project develops FHIR standards. Argonaut aims at industry wide adoption of interoperability standards. Software suppliers are integrating FHIR in their EHR and PHR solutions. Big players like Google have already adopted FHIR. This makes is a lot easier to share your clinical data with other care providers and your patients.