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What is FHIR and why is it important?

What is FHIR and why is it important?

An overview of FHIR and its impact on patient care.

Published on by Anton Vasetenkov
Updated on
Topics: FHIR, Healthcare

Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) is a specification for an API used to exchange healthcare data such as EHRs. It is developed by HL7 and addresses the problem of interoperability of medical information systems.

The FHIR standard covers human and veterinary, clinical care, public health, clinical trials, administration and financial aspects. It supports a wide variety of architectures and scenarios involving the exchange of clinical data as well as healthcare-related administrative, public health, and research data.

Clinical "things" in FHIR

The FHIR data model is based on the concept of "resources" and "elements". A resource is a collection of data elements that describes a "thing" in healthcare. A resource can be a patient, a medication, an allergy, a practitioner, a location, etc.

For example, a resource of type Patient contains the patient's name, gender, birth date, as well as some additional information:

  "resourceType": "Patient",
  "text": {
    "status": "generated",
    "div": "<!-- Generated HTML -->"
  "identifier": [
      "use": "usual",
      "label": "MRN",
      "system": "",
      "value": "12345"
  "name": [
      "family": [
      "given": [
  "gender": {
    "text": "Male"
  "birthDate": "1991-02-03",
  "active": true

By defining a set of standard resource models, FHIR enables interoperability between different healthcare systems. It proves useful for exchanging data between different systems and organizations and for building applications that can work with different systems. In this regard, FHIR can act as a lingua franca (common language) for healthcare as a whole.

Bottom line

FHIR allows different healthcare systems and apps to exchange information about clinical "things" including patient, lab, treatment, and other types of data. By speaking the same language, those systems are able to seamlessly integrate with each other and enable better, more consistent, and safer healthcare services.

See also

A network of drugs: The New Zealand Medicines Terminology
An overview of New Zealand's drug vocabulary.
AstraZeneca's knowledge graph: Drug discovery is a lot about connections
The biomedical knowledge graph built by AstraZeneca helps the company find new drugs and drug targets.
List of FHIR terminology servers
The list of FHIR-compliant servers for working with code systems, value sets, and concept maps.

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