The term SMART on FHIR has become ubiquitous in healthcare information technology over the last few years. It’s also an acronym in which the individual letters don’t matter as much as the phrase itself. FHIR is the current federally recognized protocol for exchanging data between health apps. SMART is the API that allows a health app containing that data to open within an existing app in a user’s workflow, like an EHR.
Why is SMART on FHIR so important?
There are really four reasons why this combination is so powerful and why it’s received so much attention. Let’s take a look.
By definition, SMART on FHIR allows one application to integrate with another.
This allows organizations to leverage the infrastructure they’ve already implemented, avoiding costs—in time and money—associated with rebuilding.
It avoids the need to customize the integration of every app.
The former requirement to have vendors integrate their apps individually was inconvenient, expensive and discouraged use among busy providers. With SMART on FHIR, providers can view applications within their EHR without needing to log into multiple systems.
It allows providers to access data within their workflows.
FHIR uses a defined data structure to create a standard integration, so providers can access and retrieve data more predictably and reliably than through other types of APIs. With seamless access to more data points, providers can make more informed decisions on care.
SMART on FHIR has been adopted as the underlying technology for TEFCA.
As the nationwide baseline for interoperability, SMART on FHIR is no longer a nice-to-have but a need-to-have.
What new solutions does SMART on FHIR support?
The new ways to present and use data are endless within the technology’s framework. Proponents of FHIR foresee a burgeoning marketplace of apps that can draw from locked file cabinets (EHRs) to drive algorithms.
Imagine you’re a subject matter expert in a topic like nutrition, cancer research or a cardiac specialty. You know you could provide valuable input to other providers on your patients if you could just see two or three specific pieces of data from their health record—but you don’t have a way to get those data points nor feed the information back. Using SMART on FHIR you could embed an app within an EHR and do both seamlessly.
In another example, let’s say a lung association produces an app that calculates a smoker’s risk of developing lung cancer based on four specific data points from a patient health record. SMART on FHIR allows the app to retrieve those points, calculate the score and deliver it back into a provider’s workflow.
For Hixny, SMART on FHIR is rapidly changing the game.
It’s the reason we collaborated with Healthy Alliance to make it possible for providers to exchange health-related social needs data and make referrals for social care directly within their workflow. Because of this success, we’ve seen the potential to do more—such as integrating social needs assessments and cognitive skills testing tools into our app. We’re even exploring the ability for other apps to embed within ours so tools typically used outside of the EHR—like state-mandated prescription monitoring databases—are available in one place, within each provider’s EHR-based workflow.