What's FHIR?

This page explains what FHIR (pronounced “fire”) is and how it got adopted so fast. We describe the main pillars, the successful philosophy behind FHIR and the community that makes FHIR strong.

Health IT standard

FHIR stands for Fast Health Interoperability Resources, and it is a data exchange standard for health: it allows you to transfer healthcare information between computer systems. FHIR is the fastest growing standard in health today, and the makers are not even finished yet!


The adoption of FHIR is going very fast. Many people, companies, and countries are happy about FHIR: they use it in hospitals, laboratories, and insurance today. For people who still have to decide: should you start to adopt FHIR as well? Don't worry. Many big companies are already on board. And why did adoption go so fast? Is it just a better standard, you might ask? Or are there other factors involved? There are several reasons. One obvious one is, yes, it's a good standard. But that does not say it all; read on to see why.

How FHIR can help you

There are big differences in how people do health. Yet, we all strive for one common goal: enable a high-quality health care! To achieve this, various institutions and people need to be connected and exchange information. Think of patients, clinicians, but even clinical researchers. Unfortunately, sending, receiving and being able to use the information afterwards in a meaningful way is quite hard. Well, we never said it was easy. Or did we? Well it's not. So how can any standard solve that?

FHIR helps in this case on different levels. By being a "common denominator", which can still be adapted for individual needs. Without going into detail, FHIR is all about resources. These can describe how a patient, observation and many other clinical concepts look like. And all this in a way that any doctor (or at least his computer) anywhere in the world can read it. That's cool is it not!

Three pillars

The FHIR specification is based on three basic pillars:

  1. Existing standards. Don't reinvent the wheel.
  2. Resources. In order to exchange data fast, you should only use what you need. That's why FHIR works with small building blocks.
  3. REST. FHIR communicates how web browsers do as well. A lot of tooling already exists, as well as language and library support for it. So it is easily to get started right away.

Based on this FHIR helps to connect people. By being interoperable, organizational and technical barriers for communication can be struck down.

Clear Philosophy

FHIR was formed with a good, clear philosophy behind it. The inventors formulated the following set of basic principles:

  • Developer oriented. Where the main focus of past standards was modeling, the makers of FHIR believe that the proof of the pudding is in the eating, not designing. It just has to work for implementers.
  • Testing. FHIR has been vigorously tested in connectathons, even before it was made into a standard. The amount of test tooling available speaks volumes for the seriousness of the principle.
  • Keep it simple. FHIR aims to cover the majority of the usecases in the standard configuration without complicating the system for a minority, with the possibility of extensions.


FHIR is a community effort, and the community culture of FHIR is a large contributor to its success. The FHIR community is a large group of very ambitious and warm people. If you join the FHIR community chat at chat.fhir.org, there is always someone willing to help you.

What's next?

Want to learn more about us? Please see the Firely website.