A short 101 guide for developers, doctors, founders, and patients

What is FHIR πŸ”₯?

FHIR is an acronym (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources) and is pronounced like "fire"
FHIR is an interface for structured health data. FHIR is also:
βœ”οΈ An API (REST) standard and structured document format (JSON/XML) for health data
βœ”οΈ A new way for developers, doctors, and patients to build applications that use and transform health data

API + document schema

REST APIs are familiar to developers. FHIR is, in part, a RESTful API over ~150 Resources (classes, entities, objects, tables, types). Each Resource has GET, POST, PATCH, etc HTTP operations. Base Resources can be constrained or extended with Profiles that are a kind of a document schema. Documents are formatted as JSON and XML.
FHIR is easy to use for developers because it exposes conventional API patterns from other industries to health care data specifically
A FHIR Resource formatted as JSON looks something like this:
"resourceType": "Patient",
"id": "newborn",
"gender": "male",
"birthDate": "2021-08-05",
JSON is the world's most popular structured data storage format, and so it's compatible with every development environment. Sero's quickstart guide has some practical starting points for developers:

Patient friendly

FHIR powers patient access to health data like current and past medications, immunization history, allergies, diagnostic reports, clinical notes, care plans and more.
Patient-directed access to FHIR data sources is a significant initiative in the United States and operates under the umbrella term "SMART":
SMART Health IT was launched with a New England Journal of Medicine article proposing a universal API (application programming interface) to transform EHRs into platforms for substitutable iPhone-like apps
With FHIR + SMART, patient-directed access to health data is not only possible - but available in totally transparent and open ways.


FHIR is actively used, required for use, or suggested for use in a number of public and private sector projects, but most interestingly in:

Is FHIR the only standard?

No! FHIR is generally complementary to other standards though. In addition to FHIR, you might hear about:
  • HL7 V2
  • OMOP