Standards such as the Health 7 International's (HL7) Fast Healthcare Interoperable Resource (FHIR) standard is seeing increased adoption among providers for exchanging patient information.
FHIR (pronounced "fire") is growing in popularity because of its simplicity and ease of use. It's based on RESTful APIs, using the Internet's HTTP protocol and other familiar web specifications such as XML and JSON. It also natively supports leading privacy and security specifications.
Other health information exchange specifications include the Direct Project, a simple, secure, standards-based method for healthcare to share data directly to known, trusted recipients over the Internet. And CONNECT, which is open source software, uses the Nationwide Health Information Network (NHIN) standards and governance to make sure that health information exchanges set up by the government are compatible with other exchanges in the U.S.
"In terms of options, there are many," said Venk Reddy, senior director of Connected Health at Walgreens. "Walgreens supports Connect, Direct, and soon FHIR."
Even health insurance giant Humana's CEO, Bruce Broussard, told a packed auditorium of health IT technologists today that they are not the answer.
"Take the technology we have, and all the things we know to do and take the necessary steps," Broussard said. "Interoperability is the opportunity for us to act like a team."
Broussard illustrated how other industries went through their own interoperability transitions, and while painful and arduous, the end result was well worth it.
Broussard pointed to the financial services industry, and providers such as Charles Schwab, which became the first firm to offer competitors' products.
"Today, it would be unheard of not to offer other products," he said.
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