Data silos, inconsistent data formats, and interoperability issues have long plagued the healthcare industry regardless of the country. FHIR, developed by Health Level Seven International (HL7), was born out of the demand for a more flexible and easier-to-implement way to exchange healthcare information digitally. Now, it’s solidifying its status as a global standard with government-level implementation and regulations.
Australia’s healthcare system is also entering a transformative phase with the implementation of FHIR standards nationally. Spearheading this initiative is the Australian Digital Health Agency (ADHA), in collaboration with Health Level Seven Australia (HL7 Australia), marking a significant step towards a more connected and efficient national healthcare system.
Who’s Leading the FHIR Initiative in Australia?
The Australian Digital Health Agency partnered with Health Level Seven Australia to champion the consistent adoption of digital health standards across Australia. This collaboration aims to create a thriving FHIR community, along with the Australian FHIR implementation guide, enhancing the standards for national adoption in public and private health sectors.
FHIR Implementation in Australia: What to Know
The implementation of FHIR in Australia is supported by several key implementation guides. These guides are foundational documents that set standards for using FHIR in various aspects of healthcare. Let’s delve into each of these guides:
1. Australian Base Implementation Guide
The Australian Base Implementation Guide (AU Base) forms the cornerstone for implementing the FHIR standard in Australia. It presents Australian healthcare concepts through FHIR processable artifacts.
This guide includes base profiles adaptable for more specific uses in separate implementation guides. It is a general framework but does not provide exhaustive constraints for all use cases.
AU Base is a starting point to implement the FHIR standard in Australia and develop FHIR profiles, ensuring compatibility with international standards and providing a foundation for more specialized guides.
2. Australian Core Implementation Guide (AU Core)
The Australian Core Implementation Guide establishes basic requirements, such as Search parameters (extend not define), Core resource profiles, and CapabilityStatements to ensure system compliance and implementation. The AU Core guide builds upon the AU Base, inheriting Extensions, Terminology, Identifier profiles, Search parameters, and Base profiles.
The AU Core guide also outlines the essential RESTful interactions with FHIR for each resource type to retrieve patient data. AU Core encourages widespread use and consistency through uniform implementation. It is a foundational layer for further standard development tailored to specific use cases. Implementing AU Core can be approached in two ways: profile-only support for digital health information or profile support with Restful API interactions.
AU Core is crucial for achieving a base level of interoperability. It’s suitable for systems focusing on core digital health functionalities and is often used as a benchmark for further implementation guide development.
3. Australian Provider Directory Implementation Guide
The AU Provider Directory Guide, building on the AU Base, outlines the data model and RESTful API interactions required for systems to efficiently record, update, search, and access administrative and directory data related to healthcare providers in Australia. It sets the foundational expectations for such systems.
4. Australian eRequesting FHIR Implementation Guide
The AU eRequesting FHIR Implementation Guide is currently under development. It’s designed to streamline and standardize the process of electronic diagnostic requests within the Australian healthcare system.
The guide covers the complete spectrum of the eRequesting process. This includes the requesting and fulfillment workflows, as well as the underlying data model. The aim is to provide a comprehensive framework for all aspects of electronic diagnostic requesting.
Each implementation guide plays a vital role in Australian healthcare interoperability, providing clear standards and protocols for various aspects of health data management using FHIR. By adhering to these guides, healthcare providers, developers, and researchers can ensure their digital health solutions are interoperable, efficient, and aligned with national and international standards.
Why It Matters
In a comment for HealthcareIT News, Amanda Cattermole, CEO of ADHA, emphasized the critical role of digital health standards in enabling interoperability within the health system. The partnership with HL7 will ensure these standards are robust, easily adopted, and effectively governed. This alignment is crucial for the seamless movement of consumer health information across a connected healthcare system.
The Larger Context: A Connected Health System by 2027
The ADHA’s National Healthcare Interoperability Plan envisions a fully connected Australian health system by 2027 with a developed strategy for 2023-2028.
This collaborative venture involves the Australian FHIR Implementers Community, HL7 Australia Working Groups, the Australian Digital Health Agency, CSIRO Australian e-Health Research Centre, and the Secure Messaging Technical Working Group. Regular FHIR®© Connectathon events play a key role in validating the guide’s suitability for implementation.
How ADHA Leverages FHIR to Help Providers Stay Connected
Provider Connect Australia™ (PCA™) is a good example of a FHIR use case in Australia, an innovative initiative by the Australian Digital Health Agency designed to empower healthcare provider organizations. Through PCA™, these organizations can efficiently manage and update their business information via a central hub. This strategy goes beyond mere information management; it aims to enhance the accuracy and availability of healthcare service and practitioner details, eliminate redundancies, and streamline notification processes.
Organizations can maintain their details through the PCA™ web application or compatible systems, like practice management software or clinical information systems, paving the way for a more integrated and responsive healthcare system.
The integration of these publishing systems with the PCA™ FHIR API allows for the synchronization of details already stored in the publishing system with PCA™. Business partners can use PCA™ to receive information published by healthcare provider organizations, with features including real-time notifications of new changes, querying the API for all changes since the last query, automating the matching and processing of published data, prefilling online forms to streamline the registration process, and more.
PCA™ plays a significant role in interoperability and Australian healthcare standards implementation as part of the Australian Digital Health Agency’s initiatives. The PCA FHIR Implementation Guide is an HL7™ FHIR® specification for the APIs offered by the PCA service. This guide is essential for developing publishing and subscribing systems that integrate with the PCA service, emphasizing the importance of FHIR standards in achieving seamless data exchange and interoperability in healthcare systems.
HL7 Australia is involved in this ecosystem as it oversees the development and alignment of healthcare standards, including FHIR, in Australia. By adhering to these standards, PCA™ ensures the healthcare data exchange is consistent, reliable, and follows internationally recognized protocols, making it easier for various healthcare systems to communicate and share information effectively.
The evolution of FHIR in Australian healthcare is a testament to the country’s commitment to advancing digital health. This journey is a crucial step towards an interconnected and streamlined healthcare system in Australia.For organizations looking to navigate this evolving landscape, we offer specialized custom FHIR development services and FHIR compliance support. Whether adapting existing systems to meet the AU Core standards or developing new solutions that leverage the power of the FHIR framework, our team is ready to help!