The Cost of FHIR API Adoption in Healthcare
Carmody explains that at UPMC, there are many different interfaces and data exchanges currently in use.
“You already have those costs to support the current environment from an infrastructure perspective, and now you’re taking on new capabilities that warrant some investment to make them happen,” he says.
That includes investment in additional security measures such as data encryption for personal health information transferred between parties.
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“There are additional costs that come with supporting the additional infrastructure, whether it’s within a data center or the cloud,” Carmody says. “Those costs will continue to grow. That’s where the costs are additive from an adoption perspective.”
Jason Warrelmann, UiPath's global director of healthcare and life sciences, agrees, noting even though the adoption of FHIR allows healthcare organizations to increase interoperability, there is still a huge cost associated with sharing data.
“Since the installment of the FHIR standard, healthcare systems have been trying to reduce the cost of data abrasion and manage the simplification of some of the administrative weight that surrounds the use of data,” he says.
Breaking Down Barriers to FHIR API Adoption
One way healthcare organizations can reduce costs is by leveraging FHIR-enabled automation software to open new clinical use case opportunities inside the health system, as well as sharing information between health systems.
Warrelmann adds that with the adoption and implementation of government-regulated open API standards and FHIR setups, healthcare organizations are quickly realizing they lack the internal processes to manage data governance and that their electronic health record platform has yet to be optimized to take full advantage of the data integrations.
“The barriers to adoption will take time to overcome as EHRs mature to handle both two-way API, custom API development and the secure sharing of FHIR-based data in a peer-to-peer exchange,” he explains.
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Miles Romney, co-founder and CTO of eVisit, says without an appreciation for the potential breadth and complexity of the migration effort, it’s easy to become frustrated with unmet expectations.
“In migrating from HL7 v.2 or a proprietary format to FHIR, the data exchange engineers will be teaching maybe a dozen different systems to speak a new language — a highly technical new language,” he says.
From Romney’s perspective, however, in many instances using FHIR will be a bit like swatting a fly with a sledgehammer.
“It has been designed to accommodate everything in healthcare, which necessarily means that it will be overwrought for many simpler tasks,” he says. “But it is highly modular, so this can be mitigated to some degree.”
Health IT Collaboration Can Improve Interoperability
Carmody emphasizes the importance of health IT professionals sharing experiences and best practices with one another to determine FHIR API challenges and define best practices.
“If you’ve blazed that trail, sharing that information with others can make sure their process is a bit more frictionless as they adopt a new standard like FHIR within their environment,” he says.