FHIR Orlando: Getting up to code

FHIR Connectathon 11 took place in January 9 and 10 in Orlando, FL. As with every stop on the FHIR circuit, evidence of steady growth in the standard was in abundance. Look no further than the furious coding that took place in a crowded hotel conference room.

Credit: Bill Dickinson

At Dynamic Health IT, the focus of our FHIR development has been on clinical quality measures and patient-accessible data. We continue to refine our approach in these areas to match changes both in the standard and how it is understood and implemented in practice. Seeing the diversity of application using the standard– owing largely to potential for resources to be self-defined – reminds us why FHIR has become an increasingly essential building block in our product development.

Appropriately enough, the Connectathon has now expanded to eleven tracks – ranging from basic patient management to financial services to genomics. As a form of introductory track, implementers perform the following tasks in the “Patient” track (Track 1), against their own or an available FHIR test server:

  • Register a Patient
  • Update a Patient
  • Retrieve Patient History
  • Search for a Patient (using name)

HL7 International also offers four tutorials earlier in the week for those looking for a primer on the standard.

There were plenty of new coders in attendance in Orlando, which speaks to current developmental climate for FHIR. Roughly half of the attendees raised their hand when asked if this was their first Connectathon, It’s worth noting that while FHIR is growing up, it is still a relatively young standard. Let’s not forget that HTML, often used as an exemplar for FHIR, was proposed in 1989 and is still undergoing major adaptations reflecting the evolution of the Web.

As Grahaem Grieve announced in Amsterdam, FHIR will now be a “working standard,” reflecting the fact that it is being implemented in production environments, but still has many core elements subject to change. The move from a draft standard toward a “balloted” standard is due to take place officially sometime this spring.

This new-found maturity was evidenced in the shift toward implementing servers. There is now a major emphasis being placed on rigorous testing against servers. Vendors are presenting production-level products for testing FHIR servers and robust patient test decks are being rolled out to meet the demand.

It was great to again see a capacity crowd for this event (hopefully not a “FHIR hazard”). The ability of FHIR to realize all of its potential has much to do with the strong community it has built.