EHR Integration
Areas of Focus:
Healthcare, Academic Research, Design and Development

Improving Interoperability with Electronic Medical Records

In 2012, a study showed approximately 63% of physicians were using a fax machine as their primary means of communicating healthcare information. We’ve come a long way since then. Electronic health records (EHR), telehealth, and other digital healthcare experiences are becoming a regular part of our modern healthcare system, especially in the wake of COVID-19. PR Newswire reports the global EHR market is expected to exceed $60 billion by 2026.

When implemented well, EHRs have the ability to aggregate everything from a patient’s medical history and current medications to treatment plans and billing status — and distribute this data securely across other healthcare systems. However, as the number of EHRs and other healthcare applications have proliferated, interoperability has become a barrier to implementation. Since many existing healthcare systems don’t run on a standard, open API, it is notoriously difficult — if not impossible — to exchange healthcare data between different tools and systems. To address this challenge, the healthcare industry established a future-proof solution: fast healthcare interoperability resources (FHIR).

“FHIR standard defines how healthcare information can be exchanged between different computer systems regardless of how it is stored in those systems. It allows healthcare information, including clinical and administrative data, to be available securely to those who have a need to access it, and to those who have the right to do so for the benefit of a patient receiving care.”
Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology

Overcoming interoperability issues with FHIR House

At Vessel Partners, we discovered the challenges around interoperability first-hand while working with MedStar Health on PRISM, an app designed to improve the collection of patient-reported outcome (PRO) data. After determining that MedStar Health’s EHR did not support all of the resources PRISM needed to function, we set out to build FHIR House — a central hub to integrate and communicate healthcare data. This cloud-agnostic middleware was designed to transmit and store every kind of FHIR data between multiple healthcare apps, facilitating a secure connection between patient-, physician-, and staff- facing apps. Implementing FHIR House solved MedStar’s interoperability issues by successfully integrating both PRISM’s patient and provider apps with Cerner — and with data the EHR did not support.

With the PRISM app we also successfully implemented SMART on FHIR, a single sign-on strategy that facilitates a more efficient, user-friendly experience for both patients and providers. Patients can log in to PRISM using their existing EHR patient portal, eliminating the need to create a new account or separately allow data sharing with their provider — while healthcare providers do not need to log in to another system when they’re already logged in to the EHR. To ensure the highest security standards healthcare data demands, we also oversaw the development of an authorization and a uthentication server to manage both patient and provider users across healthcare apps.

Open-sourcing the future

After implementing FHIR House in PRISM, we realized our middleware solution could be used to solve interoperability issues for other apps as well. We successfully repurposed FHIR House for TAPR-CPM — an app designed to help patients taper off opioid medications — allowing for seamless integration with multiple EHR systems. Additionally, we added SMART on FHIR to facilitate an easy, secure onboarding.

Since FHIR House allows for the rapid extension of the FHIR specification to new resource types and novel actions, we believe it can be successfully implemented in all manner of healthcare applications. Vessel Partners is committed to broadening access to healthcare technology, therefore we have made an open-source version of FHIR House available to other healthcare developers. It is our hope FHIR House will be implemented in apps across the healthcare industry, improving access to EHR data — and eventually making interoperability challenges a thing of the past.

To learn more about FHIR House and EHR interoperability, contact us.

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