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Why FHIR, Why Now?

Canada has invested in establishing foundational digital health technologies and is now poised to increase and expand the use of digital health applications. These applications will offer advanced functionality in support of collaborative clinical practice, continuity of health services, and citizen engagement in their own health and wellness. This requires that relevant digital health information flow readily, and appropriately, when and where needed.

To accomplish this, digital health applications need to interoperate with other applications and information sources. The most recent standard created by HL7, “Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources” (HL7 FHIR®), represents a significant leap forward in achieving working interoperability quickly and reliably.

FHIR® combines the best features of HL7's v2, HL7 v3 and CDA product lines while leveraging the latest web standards and applying a tight focus on implementability. This standard specification is free for use, can be implemented “out-of-the-box” and can co-exist with previous HL7 standards products.1

In development as a standard for trial use for several years now, FHIR has seen rapid adoption globally in a very short time frame. Its characteristics are ideally suited to meet the rapidly growing demand for functional digital technology solutions that allow relevant health information to flow, and be used effectively, where and when needed. FHIR is approaching market penetration and a level of stability that now makes it the “standard of choice” for interoperability. Quickly being proven and refined in connectathons internationally and in Canada, the standard is expected to move from trial to standard–for-use status within the next 10 months.

To best utilize the capabilities of FHIR, and to achieve the broadest possible scaling and interoperability of digital health applications, Canada Health Infoway is engaging with the Canadian health interoperability community to promote and support the strategic use of FHIR.

This support includes thought leadership, tooling to supporting the FHIR implementation community in Canada and, through InfoCentral, a collaboration space for public and private-sector participants to discuss and evolve effective and consistent use of FHIR resource definitions and profiles for use in meeting the interoperability needs of the health sector across Canada.

Read the full article including key objectives and approach for use of FHIR in Canada and visit the FHIR Implementation Working Group to participate in the discussion. 


Ron G. Parker, Group Director, Interoperability, Standards and Analytics at Canada Health Infoway

With 32 years of experience in architecting integrated IT solutions in health and social services enterprises, Ron leads the Infoway teams responsible for clinical systems interoperability and terminology. He is also the co-chair of Infoway’s jurisdictional Health Analytics Forum. In his 15 years with Infoway, he has worked as part of a team identifying, assessing, and elaborating on the application of emergent information and communication technologies (ICT) in the health care sector in Canada. 

Ron is responsible for the Digital Health Blueprint and its predecessor, the EHR Solutions Blueprint, an award-winning service-oriented enterprise architectural framework for health care delivery in Canada. The Blueprint defines the approach for supporting collaborative, coordinated, and innovative health and care that demonstrates how effective use of ICT is fundamental to a sustainable health care system. He is also the author of a definitive white paper on the use of Cloud-based computing environments in health care, and is well known to the international health informatics interoperability and information standards communities.

Reference 1. Adapted from August, 2017

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