NEXT Patient Week panel discusses FHIR and how it is advancing clinical research and care

On Dec. 9th, Healex partnered with NEXT Pharma Summit to host a panel discussion on the FHIR Data Standard and it’s impact on knowledge-generating medicine. Re-watch the panel discussion below learn about the the major points discussed.

We thank all the panelists for the wonderful discussion and Next Pharma for hosting us.

The current Corona pandemic has revealed once more, how important the interconnectedness of clinical research and care is. One more reason why this years’ NEXT Patient Week focused on pharma patient engagement, digital therapeutics and medical future. In an open panel, Healex Co-Founder Gustav Vella, Craig Lipset (Pfizer), Christopher Boone (Abbvie) and Lauren Li (Ipsen) discussed the game-changing role of FHIR in knowledge-generating medicine today.

The situation in modern healthcare is complex: hospital information systems (HIS) are mostly used for case accounting, while IT systems are fragmented and closed off, as Gustav Vella explains. Therefore, clinical data is very difficult to use in practice, as therapy data and diagnostic data differ fundamentally. Also, clinical data is often not digitised and still paper based. On top of this, missing rights and roles, missing interfaces to HIS/EMR, the need for integration of special diagnostics, electronic patient files and legacy systems make data handling extremely challenging. The data that is needed for diagnostics and treatment is in fact there but is often stored in inaccessible proprietary data formats and locked away in data silos. As a result, recent developments have focused on harmonising datasets and opening interfaces to healthcare systems with clinical data standards like FHIR both at the individual sites as well as in trial management systems operated by sponsors.

A lofty goal: Standardisation without the loss of flexibility

FHIR has been developed as an international data standard to solve the problems caused by different data standards. The FHIR standard (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources) harmonises a set of data formats and elements and provides an application programming interface (APIs) for integrating and exchanging electronic health records (EHR). The extensible vocabulary allows for a granular representation of data needed in individualized therapy thus integrating routine care with specialised diagnostics.  As interoperability has been a struggle in that field ever since, as Christopher Boone points out, FHIR offers a near real-time ability to distribute data in clinical networks.

The patient as information provider and receiver

Concerning transparency and ownership of data, the panelists emphasize the role of the individual.

Patients should be able to access their data in a consistent and reliable way, as Christopher Boone explains. From 2021 onwards, all medical and therapeutical data is supposed to be stored in the patient’s electronic health record (EHR). Using FHIR to harmonise data from different sources, secure data exchange from and to the patient become a possibility. As a result, data of different origins can be integrated into the EHR, e.g. laboratory data, hospital data or data collected by the patient. The latter is a crucial factor in the process of bridging the gap between clinical research and care.

As Christopher Boone puts it, the combination of FHIR and a good policy could create an innovative new eco system for clinical data. If researchers, he concludes, can rely on the patient as an aggregator while patients gain access and control over their data, a sustainable model could be established. Thus, the patients’ role could change to being experts on their own diseases, says Lauren Li. Integrating patient collected data, e.g. from healthcare or fitness apps, could provide better insights for physicians. In turn, data from these sources could be used for more effective prevention and individual treatments.

Finally, Li concludes, patients would be able to get the best possible therapies at the exact right time.

Why the time is right for FHIR

FHIR does not simply provide better real-life data for research. More significantly, the panelists state, it is leading to a shift in clinical research towards knowledge generating medicine, spurring a drastic – and in a certain way disruptive – repositioning of clinical research infrastructure.

FHIR harmonizes the vocabulary of healthcare and clinical research making a holistic, high quality, structured representation of patient data accessible for research insights as well as for data driven clinical decisions, as argued by Gustav Vella.

Regarding the current situation, he underlines, FHIR is even more needed considering its role in fighting the pandemic. Covid-19 research can be greatly sped up with FHIR. Or, as Vella puts it, not using FHIR could cause major delays in getting vaccines ready.

Healex is dedicated to FHIR

The discussion has clearly shown the need for new tooling and infrastructure for clinical data that can co-exist and enhance legacy IT.

The core of the Healex products is FHIR to support faster interoperability, data harmonisation and consolidation. In building the Clinical Integration Hub (CIH), a comprehensive, developer friendly FHIR platform, designed for easily getting started in legacy IT, we want to contribute to the continuous process of improving interoperability in healthcare. We also provide a FHIR server that enables easy data storage and sharing. Our FHIR plugins, on the other hand, allow tailoring FHIR to existing infrastructure, while the Healex FHIR mapper helps to transform clinical data from many different sources to FHIR. Finally, our Ontoserver enables clinical terminologies in FHIR.

To us, FHIR is a game changer because it provides a shared language for data in healthcare – or, to put it more poetically: a universal language between pharma, hospitals and patients.

If you are interested in getting started with FHIR in your organisation or in optimising your FHIR workflows, feel free to contact us anytime!

Contact us to get started with FHIR!

About Christoph Plamper:

Christoph is the Head of Marketing at Healex and responsible for Marketing and Sales. Christoph has more than 10 years of experience in marketing and brand management at major brands, startups and in agencies.

About Healex:

Connecting and accelerating medical research and treatment – with this goal Healex develops solutions that support and speed up clinical work and networked research, especially in the current Corona crisis.

Healex enables the transfer of information from various clinical and research systems as well as secure and usable storage of health information. The data can be used for prevention, up-to-date patient records, care, and science.