[Healthcare] From HL7 to FHIR: the paradox of interconnectivity standards

par Nathalie Lahitte

11 September 2023

by Nathalie Lahitte

11 September 2023


The paradox of standards is that they have the capacity to change everything from the organization to the efficiency of care, but that they are complex to grasp. What is at stake today is the preparation of the hospital’s IT infrastructure for the challenges of tomorrow. And these are coming very quickly.

Switching to the HL7* FHIR** standard means using IT services easily accessible from a mobile device, which use an API or can be used by third-party applications. Within a hospital, these new tools help to better respond to: 

  • the explosion of patient flows: scheduled or unscheduled 
  • the strain on the nursing staff: their presence in the right place at the right time 
  • increasing existing data: clinical data, connected objects

Tomorrow, these data flows will only intensify. Faced with current priorities, how do we deal with these major trends? How do we anticipate them? 

A Hospital ready for tomorrow with HL7 FHIR

Better interconnectivity in the hospital offers benefits to all stakeholders:

  • Patients, better quality of care 
  • For caregivers, cutting-edge organizational efficiency
  • For researchers, health data warehouses that are spreading
  • To the hospital establishments, with a rationalization of health costs

This interconnectivity will undeniably emerge as an axis of differentiation and as a performance indicator. As mentioned by Dr. Devenois in the podcast The Hospital of the Future, “We often talk about the quality of care, but less about the quality of care services.”.That could soon change.

HL7 FHIR, the situation to date 

Initially American, the HL7 FHIR specifications are exported and tend to become an international standard. A significant portion of US hospitals have adopted this new standard.

In Europe, the transition is beginning. In France, innovative establishments such as the Centre Hospitalier de Valenciennes (CHV) uses the HL7 2.5 standard to satisfaction, pending the transition to FIHR. As for Switzerland, the objective is to standardize the exchange of data in its health system, in particular with a view to the electronic patient file (EPD) introduced in 2020. eHealth Switzerland is also relying on the HL7 FHIR standard.

Support the change

To avoid computer emergencies, only one option: be prepared to act.

Faced with this colossal project, different approaches are possible.

  1. Gradual Migration

Gradually migrate to FHIR while continuing to use existing HL7-based systems. This approach allows for the transition without too much disruption to existing operations.

  1. Conversion intermediaries

Use message translation tools that allow HL7-based information systems to communicate with FHIR-based ones, and vice versa

  1. Or continue to use HL7

HL7 will not be obsolete tomorrow, knowing that more and more systems are adopting FHIR to communicate with each other.

Medicalytics 2023: from data interoperability to innovative care services 

Medical informatics professionals will be present for the 4th edition of the Medicalytics conferences organized on September 28 at the Institut et Haute Ecole de la Santé La Source in Lausanne. Among the topics covered: data interop, digitization of healthcare services, artificial intelligence and telemedicine. The program for this inspiring morning and registrations are available on Medicalytics.ch.

* From the Health Level 7 organization which defines the eponymous (HL7) of technical specifications for the computerized exchange of clinical, financial and administrative data between hospital information systems (HIS)

** Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources

Original article translated by Emmanuel Georges

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