FHIR vs. Existing Standards: Why the Future is Interoperable

FHIR vs. Existing Standards: Why the Future is Interoperable

Allan Porras
Allan Porras Apr 23 2024 • 3 min read

For decades, the healthcare industry has been plagued by a lack of interoperability between different electronic health record (EHR) systems. This fragmentation has created a siloed environment where crucial patient data is often trapped within individual systems, hindering communication between providers, compromising patient care, and frustrating everyone involved.

The good news is that a new standard, FHIR (Fast Healthcare Interoperable Resources), is emerging as a game-changer, promising a future of seamless data exchange and improved healthcare delivery.

The Struggles of Existing Standards

Before diving into FHIR, let's understand the limitations of existing standards like HL7 v2 and CDA (Consolidated Clinical Document Architecture). These legacy systems, developed in a different era, rely on document-centric exchange, meaning entire documents are transferred even when only specific data points are needed. This approach is cumbersome, inefficient, and often results in clinicians sifting through mountains of irrelevant information to find what they need.

Additionally, these standards lack flexibility, making it difficult to accommodate the ever-evolving healthcare landscape.

FHIR: A Breath of Fresh Air

FHIR stands out as a revolutionary approach to healthcare data exchange. Unlike its predecessors, it focuses on a resource-based architecture. Data is organized into discrete, modular units called resources, each representing a specific clinical concept like medications, allergies, or immunizations. This granular approach allows for the exchange of specific data points, improving efficiency and reducing information overload for clinicians.

Here's what makes FHIR a powerful tool for interoperability:

  • APIs (Application Programming Interfaces): FHIR leverages APIs, essentially acting as a common language that allows different healthcare IT systems to communicate and exchange data seamlessly. This eliminates the need for custom integrations, streamlining data exchange and reducing development costs.
  • Flexibility and Extensibility: FHIR is designed to be flexible and adaptable. It provides a core set of resources while allowing for customization through profiles and extensions. This ensures that FHIR can accommodate the specific needs of different healthcare organizations and specialties.
  • Focus on Data, not Documents: As mentioned earlier, FHIR moves away from document-centric exchange, focusing on the exchange of specific data elements. This not only improves efficiency but also allows for easier data aggregation and analysis, paving the way for advancements in population health management and clinical research.

The Road to an Interoperable Future

While FHIR holds immense promise, transitioning to a fully interoperable healthcare ecosystem will require a collaborative effort. Here are some key steps:

  • Industry Adoption: Widespread adoption of FHIR by healthcare providers, software vendors, and payers is crucial for its success. Fortunately, there is growing momentum towards FHIR adoption, with major stakeholders recognizing its potential benefits.
  • Standardization and Implementation: Continued development and refinement of FHIR standards, along with clear implementation guidelines, are essential for ensuring consistent and reliable data exchange.
  • Infrastructure Development: Robust infrastructure to support secure and efficient data exchange across different systems is necessary to fully realize FHIR's potential.

The Benefits of Interoperability

The implications of a truly interoperable healthcare system are far-reaching. Here are some key benefits we can expect:

  • Improved Patient Care: Seamless data exchange allows providers to access a patient's complete medical history from various sources, enabling them to make more informed care decisions.
  • Enhanced Care Coordination: Better communication and data sharing between providers will lead to more coordinated care plans and improved patient outcomes.
  • Empowered Patients: Patients will have easier access to their own health data, allowing them to participate more actively in their care decisions.
  • Reduced Costs: Streamlined data exchange can lead to operational efficiencies and reduced administrative burdens, ultimately lowering healthcare costs.
  • Research Advancements: Easier access to standardized healthcare data can fuel groundbreaking research and development in various healthcare fields.


The future of healthcare is undoubtedly interoperable. With its focus on flexibility, data exchange, and open standards, FHIR is well-positioned to be the cornerstone of this transformation. While challenges remain, the potential benefits of interoperability are too significant to ignore. By embracing FHIR and working collaboratively, we can create a healthcare ecosystem that is more efficient, patient-centered, and primed for innovation.

As healthcare professionals, we have a responsibility to advocate for FHIR adoption and contribute to building a future where seamless data exchange empowers better care for all.

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About 4Geeks

Founded in 2012, 4Geeks is a global software engineering and revenue growth consulting firm for Fortune 500, Global 2000 and fast-growing SMBs. Provides top solutions to multiple industries including Retail, Healthcare, Banking & Financial Services, B2B SaaS, Manufacturing and Education. HQ in the USA, and delivery centers across Latin America.

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