As FHIR product director, I get plenty of comments about the hype associated with FHIR. And there is plenty of hype. Here’s the Gartner hype curve:
Where are we on that curve, people want to know? Well, my answer is that as far as I can tell, the rate of increase of hype is still increasing, so it seems as though we’re still in the initial rocket phase.
What’s the hype?
For me, hype is beyond enthusiasm – it’s when people make wildly inflated claims about what is possible, (wilfully) misunderstand the limitations of the technology, and evangelise the technology for all sorts of ill judged applications (about where block chain in healthcare is right now).
So what things do I see that I think are hype? Well there are many symptoms, but one fundamental cause: there’s an apparently widely held view that “FHIR will solve interoperability”.
It’s not going to.
FHIR is 2 things: a technology, and a culture. I’m proud of both of those things. I think both of those will make a huge contribution towards solving the problems of interoperability in healthcare. But people who think that problem will be solved anytime soon don’t understand the constraints we work under.
HL7 is an IT standardisation Organization. We have severely limited ability to standardise the practice of healthcare or medicine. We just have to accept them as they are. So we can’t provide prescriptive information models. We can’t force vendors or institutions to do things the same way. We can’t force them to share particular kinds of information at particular times. All we can do is describe a common way to do it, if people want to do it.
FHIR is good for sharing information out of an EHR – but confirming to FHIR doesn’t prove anything; there’ll have to be some policy layer above that. More generally, if you have 2 teams (departments, vendors, governments, whatever) that don’t see eye to eye, forcing them to adopt FHIR as a technology isn’t going to change anything. Getting them to adopt the FHIR culture – that will. But you cannot impose that.
So what can we do about that?
What we – the FHIR team – can do is to make sure the fundamentals are in place. Good governance, solid processes, well tested specifications, an open and inclusive engagement framework. If we can get that right – and it’s a work in process – then the trough of despair won’t be as deep as it might, and we can focus on our task: getting the standards out of the way of solving problems in people’s healthcare.
Follow up: have you read my 3 laws of interoperability?