Using Process Automation to Bridge the FHIR Adoption Gap

By Jason Warrelmann, VP, Global Services & Process Industries, UiPath
Twitter: @UiPath

Today, only 24% of healthcare companies utilize FHIR application program interfaces (APIs), according to the Engine Group commissioned by Change Healthcare. FHIR, or Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources, defines how healthcare information can be exchanged between different computer systems regardless of how it is stored. It allows healthcare information, including clinical and administrative data, to be available securely to those who need access to it and who have the right to do so for the benefit of a patient receiving care.

Developed by Health Level 7, or HL7, FHIR has quickly become the standard for representing and exchanging health information. However, FHIR APIs are not easy for businesses to adapt, as today it is mostly driven by the need for compliance with interoperability rules. For healthcare providers, this means several steps of preparation before being fully FHIR-ready.

FHIR-enabled automation can help make this adoption easier, leaving the preparation to software robots. Automation makes sharing data and information between teams more seamless, ensuring everyone is on the same page when it comes to FHIR APIs. FHIR-enabled automation also ensures compliance and streamlines important processes, reducing the cost of FHIR adoption and making it faster and more efficient. FHIR is built to fit everything in healthcare, and so is automation, making both tools great for simplifying tasks.

Meeting the standards

The healthcare industry has developed methods to not only send information but also retrieve it—and keep it secure—from a variety of places in different formats. Healthcare technology needs to meet certain standards related to data, patient information, and confidentiality. FHIR has a set of industry-standard instructions designed to categorize and extract data from an underlying healthcare system and is mandated by the 21st Century Cures Act.

In addition to this mandated interoperability standard, data integrity and security must be maintained. There are rulesets, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), to follow. And, there are security standards such as HITRUST CSF that act as proof that software is not only capable but has been tested by rigorous criteria to ensure patient-related data is secure.

Using FHIR-enabled automation can ensure industry standards and regulations are met every step of the way. For example, healthcare organizations can automatically transfer and process patient data using automation. This reduces the risk of violating HIPAA regulations while also erasing the need for administrators to perform repetitive and mundane tasks.

Cost of adoption

The cost, IT expertise, and time needed to implement FHIR APIs can be a strain on some organizations. With FHIR APIs, many interfaces and data exchanges are used—there is not just one. The cost to maintain this current infrastructure can be significant, whether due to deploying more cloud-based storage options as the amount of data grows or implementing new capabilities, adding to the initial investment. Even while adopting FHIR is necessary and allows healthcare providers to exchange data through systems more efficiently, the cost associated with it can be burdensome.

FHIR-enabled automation can save businesses money by eliminating costly errors and streamlining processes to help employees complete them more efficiently. A software robot is capable of performing a list of more than 600 actions in a given sequence, making FHIR-enabled automation a priority investment for CIOs looking to reduce the cost of FHIR adoption. Automating the adoption process can save organizations money on administrative labor since repetitive, time-consuming tasks will be done automatically. Instead of deploying multiple teams, automating the process with FHIR-enabled technology will save time and money, especially as an organization’s use of automation compounds over time.

Accelerating processes

Letting software robots take on more of the routine work can help businesses save significant amounts of time when it comes to adopting FHIR. Rather than having IT data experts login to multiple systems, navigate to the correct record, extract the relevant information, log out, log in to the next system, navigate to the right place, paste in the copied information, and so on, CIOs can deploy software robots with FHIR-enabled automation to tackle this lengthy process.

According to a report by McKinsey Global Institute, nearly 60% of workers surveyed estimate they could save six or more hours a week — almost a full workday — if the repetitive aspects of their jobs were automated. Workers believe that automating will eliminate human error (66%) and recover hours lost to manual, repetitive tasks that could be automated (59%). Not only will FHIR-enabled automation help save teams time, but it will also reduce the number of inevitable errors that comes with working on significant amounts of data.

Since FHIR’s development began a decade ago, there is still a market need for faster, easier, and better methods to exchange the rapidly growing amount of health data. This growth in the availability of new health data, along with the progressing “app” economy, created the need for clinicians and consumers to be able to share data in a lightweight, real-time fashion using modern internet technologies and standards. FHIR-enabled automation makes this adaptation easier and faster, allowing teams to reduce costs, meet regulatory standards such as HIPAA, and save time. Automating workflows with FHIR-enabled software robots eliminates the stress of working with new, complex software and sets all APIs up for success.