As the complexity and interdependencies in healthcare increase, it is becoming more and more challenging for healthcare practitioners to keep all the relevant information they need in sync and available at the right time. To enable an efficient care process, all diagnostic IT systems must update and synchronize their information instantaneously.
For healthcare IT systems, displaying the correct information for a given patient has always been paramount, which has resulted in several ways to synchronize information across different vendor systems—for example, a reporting application that needs to synchronize with a PACS displaying images.
Historically many vendors have experienced that the standards available has either been too complex to implement, or too proprietary for a specific vendor. Many times, this has resulted in vendors having to implement new ways of carrying out context synchronization for every new integration.
The challenges associated with providing healthcare professionals with efficient context synchronization inspired us at Sectra to work with the EMR vendor Epic, to start building a new standard known as FHIRcast, which aims to remedy these problems.
What is FHIRcast?
FHIRcast is a new standardized way of performing context synchronization. It is meant to strike a balance between complexity, ability and flexibility as well as to provide new and innovative ways for healthcare IT vendors to share a given context between applications, computers or devices.
FHIRcast is based on modern IT infrastructure and standards, and supports context sharing between anything from applications on the same computer to completely separate devices. It is currently being developed under the HL7 standard organization with close connections to the FHIR standard. A major advantage is that FHIRcast is an Open Source project at GitHub, which means that anyone can easily contribute ideas, concerns or even code.
Where it all began
Working with Epic, Sectra was the first to sit down and sketch out the initial ideas of what would later become FHIRcast. At the first meeting, we discussed how the current challenges with desktop synchronization could be addressed in the new standard. Today, most major vendors of healthcare IT are involved in shaping FHIRcast into something that fits all the needs of the healthcare IT collective.
At Sectra, we soon understood that FHIRcast, in order to be successful, needed the full force of an open standard. We therefore decided to convert the internal tooling we had been using to test FHIRcast into a complete Open Source project under the FHIRcast GitHub organization. This became the first FHIRcast sandbox to help developers and other technical professionals to test their own FHIRcast implementations or just see what FHIRcast is about. This was also the first reference implementation of the specification, something that was later to be followed by many more Open Source tools in the FHIRcast organization from other vendors and individuals.
FHIRcast enables vendors to meet user demands
FHIRcast has the potential to help “oil the wheels” when it comes to context synchronization in the healthcare sector. At Sectra, we hope that the future holds a more harmonized and easy way for all vendors, regardless of their size, technology of choice or line of healthcare business. FHIRcast will enable vendors to integrate, and provide a smoother, faster and safer toolbox for healthcare practitioners in their daily work.
Sectra continues to invest time and resources in FHIRcast, both to shape the standard and to improve and adapt the FHIRcast toolbox. In a future of handheld devices and the Internet of Things, it is important to rely on a standard that is already in place—a standard that is future proof. Innovative workflows should not be held back by implementation details such as context synchronization.
FHIRcast website: http://fhircast.org/
FHIRcast GitHub organization: https://github.com/fhircast/