It Takes Practice: Fostering Community with FHIR
Updated November 22, 2021
Rapidly exchanging and processing electronic health record (EHR) data is an ongoing challenge in the public health space. CDC and other healthcare organizations are increasingly addressing data exchange issues by adopting HL7® (Health Level Seven International) FHIR® (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources), a standard for electronically transferring healthcare information. HL7® FHIR® standard Application Programming Interfaces (API) help healthcare and public health agencies exchange EHR data between different computer systems.
The move to HL7® FHIR® requires collaboration and coordination. CDC programs across the agency are using this standard to improve implementation guideline development, rapid data exchange, and electronic case reporting. To support the transition to FHIR®, CDC’s Public Health Informatics Office (PHIO) convened a FHIR® Community of Practice. The group is comprised of more than 100 health IT staff, developers, and other public health partners, both external and internal. Its goal is to increase adoption of HL7® FHIR® standards at CDC; raise awareness of related initiatives across federal, state, and local public health communities, and health IT industry; and develop effective ways to securely exchange data between public health information systems.
The FHIR® Community of Practice meets monthly to showcase projects that have successfully implemented HL7® FHIR® standards. The group works to craft ideas and practices that engage healthcare experts, researchers, and others in CDC’s FHIR® efforts. Consequently, the group’s work has yielded several products, including:
- HL7® FHIR® Frequently Asked Questions – A reference tool to learn more about FHIR®.
- FHIR® Guidelines Development Checklist – An evolving eight-step checklist to help users learn effective ways to implement FHIR®.
- CDC Projects List – A list of CDC projects and activities that are currently underway and using HL7® FHIR®.
Communication is critical to strengthen relationships between computer systems. Data providers need to partner with public health to rapidly exchange and analyze data from electronic health records to respond to public health threats. Interoperability challenges lead to data errors, duplications, and delayed reporting, which causes delays in preventing and controlling disease. This lack of communication can create information gaps and ultimately make it harder to eliminate disease and provide timely, effective care.
The FHIR® Community of Practice’s efforts serve as an investment in the type of innovation that strives to solve interoperability problems throughout the agency. The group will continue to inform projects to highlight how HL7® FHIR® standards are advancing data modernization efforts at CDC and beyond.
To learn more or to join the FHIR® Community of Practice, contact PHIOTeam@cdc.gov (Subject: FHIR Community of Practice).