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FHIR Made Easy: Development for Healthcare Apps

Alexei Chizhmakov

Published on April 19, 2023

Healthcare has evolved dramatically in the digital age, and the need for efficient, interoperable solutions is more pressing than ever. The increased demand for seamless data exchange, improved patient outcomes, and streamlined workflows have necessitated the adoption of innovative technologies. One such game-changer is FHIR (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources), a cutting-edge standard transforming how healthcare organizations exchange vital information electronically.

As a leading Seattle-based healthcare software development company, Itirra is well-versed in FHIR’s potential to revolutionize patient care and enhance operational efficiency. This article will explore the intricacies of FHIR application development for healthcare companies, offering valuable insights and best practices for leveraging this transformative technology to revolutionize patient care and streamline operations.

What is FHIR, and why does it matter?

FHIR, or Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources, is a healthcare data exchange standard developed by Health Level Seven International (HL7), a not-for-profit organization that develops and maintains global standards for the sharing of healthcare information. FHIR was designed to address the pressing need for a flexible, modern, and secure standard that seamlessly facilitates the exchange of electronic health records (EHRs) among different systems and platforms in the healthcare ecosystem.

FHIR leverages the latest web technologies and standards, such as RESTful APIs, JSON, and XML, to enable the efficient exchange of healthcare information in a standardized format. It uses a modular approach, with resources representing granular clinical concepts (e.g., patients, conditions, medications) that can be combined and extended as needed. This flexibility allows FHIR to accommodate diverse use cases and adapt to the ever-evolving healthcare industry needs.

The importance of FHIR lies in its potential to solve the long-standing challenge of healthcare data interoperability, which has plagued the industry for decades. Traditionally, healthcare organizations have struggled to exchange information due to the use of disparate systems and incompatible data formats. This lack of interoperability has resulted in fragmented care, increased costs, and limited innovation. FHIR addresses these issues head-on by providing a standardized and easy-to-implement framework for healthcare data exchange. 

An example of a FHIR application roadmap.
What are the benefits of FHIR applications?

FHIR applications have become increasingly essential for healthcare organizations as they strive to meet the growing need for seamless data exchange, improved patient care, and streamlined operations. By leveraging FHIR’s innovative approach to healthcare interoperability, these applications offer a wide range of benefits that address the challenges healthcare companies face. Some of the most notable advantages of FHIR applications are:

Enhanced interoperability

One of the most significant benefits of FHIR applications is their ability to facilitate seamless data exchange between disparate systems. By standardizing the format and structure of healthcare information, FHIR applications ensure that diverse systems can communicate effectively, regardless of their underlying technology or vendor.

Real-time access to patient records

FHIR applications enable healthcare providers to access up-to-date patient records and clinical data in real time. This not only improves the accuracy and efficiency of decision-making but also allows for more informed, personalized care plans that better cater to patients’ individual needs.

Improved data quality

FHIR’s standardized data model and rigorous validation processes contribute to the overall quality and consistency of healthcare data. By adhering to a well-defined structure, FHIR applications reduce the likelihood of errors and inconsistencies, ensuring that healthcare providers have access to accurate, reliable information.

Streamlined workflows

FHIR applications can help healthcare organizations automate and optimize their workflows, reducing administrative burden and improving overall efficiency. By facilitating the seamless exchange of information between different systems, FHIR applications enable healthcare providers to quickly access the data they need, resulting in faster and more effective decision-making.

Cross-platform integration

FHIR applications are designed to be platform-agnostic, which means they can easily integrate with a wide range of systems and technologies. This flexibility enables healthcare companies to build comprehensive, interoperable solutions that meet their unique needs without being locked into a specific vendor or technology stack.

Regulatory compliance

FHIR’s commitment to security, privacy, and standardization ensures that FHIR applications are well-equipped to meet the stringent requirements of healthcare regulations, such as HIPAA and GDPR. By adopting FHIR applications, healthcare organizations can more easily demonstrate compliance with these regulations, mitigating the risk of penalties and fines.

Scalability and flexibility

The modular nature of FHIR resources allows healthcare organizations to implement only the components they need, enabling them to scale their FHIR applications as their requirements evolve. This adaptability ensures that FHIR applications can grow alongside healthcare organizations, making them a future-proof investment.

Facilitated innovation

By offering a standardized framework for healthcare data exchange, FHIR applications create an environment that fosters innovation. Healthcare companies can more readily develop and deploy new solutions, products, and services that leverage the power of FHIR, leading to ongoing advancements in patient care and operational efficiency.

FHIR applications offer a wealth of benefits to healthcare companies, ranging from enhanced interoperability and real-time access to patient records to streamlined workflows and regulatory compliance. By embracing FHIR-based solutions, healthcare organizations can position themselves for success in the digital age, ensuring that they remain at the forefront of innovation and patient care.

FHIR application development best practices

As healthcare organizations embark on their FHIR application development journey, adhering to best practices can significantly enhance the overall success and efficiency of the project. With a focus on system architecture, data modeling, and security, these guidelines will help ensure that FHIR-based solutions are both robust and future-proof.

System Architecture

Modular design

Adopt a modular approach to FHIR application development by breaking the system down into smaller, independent components. This allows for easier updates, maintenance, and scalability, ensuring that the application can adapt to evolving needs and requirements.


Design the system with interoperability in mind, ensuring that it can seamlessly exchange data with other healthcare systems and platforms. This entails using standardized FHIR APIs and adhering to industry best practices for data exchange.

Performance and scalability

Optimize your FHIR application for performance, ensuring that it can handle high volumes of data and concurrent users. This involves utilizing load balancing, caching, and other optimization techniques to guarantee that the system can scale efficiently as demand grows.

Data modeling

FHIR resources

Leverage FHIR’s built-in resources to model your healthcare data. These standardized resources, such as Patient, Observation, and Encounter, facilitate seamless data exchange and simplify integration with other systems.

Extensions and custom resources

While FHIR’s predefined resources cover a wide range of healthcare data, there may be instances where additional data elements are required. In such cases, use FHIR’s extension mechanism to add custom attributes or create custom resources to address unique needs.

Data validation and consistency

Ensure that the data entered into your FHIR application is valid and consistent by implementing validation rules and constraints. This will help maintain data integrity and minimize errors when exchanging information with other systems.


Authentication and authorization

Implement robust authentication and authorization mechanisms to protect sensitive healthcare data. Use standards such as OAuth 2.0 and OpenID Connect to securely grant access to FHIR APIs and ensure that only authorized users can access the data.

Data encryption

Protect data both in transit and at rest by employing encryption techniques. Utilize industry-standard encryption algorithms, such as AES-256, and ensure that data transmitted over the network is protected with SSL/TLS.

Auditing and monitoring

Implement comprehensive auditing and monitoring capabilities to track access and usage of your FHIR application. This will help detect potential security threats and ensure compliance with regulatory requirements such as HIPAA and GDPR.

By adhering to these best practices, healthcare organizations can develop FHIR applications that are secure, efficient, and interoperable. By prioritizing modular design, standardized data modeling, and robust security measures, healthcare companies can build powerful FHIR-based solutions that drive innovation and improve patient care.

Different possible architectures of FHIR implementation.
Future of FHIR and healthcare interoperability

As we look toward the future of FHIR and healthcare interoperability, it is clear that the adoption of this groundbreaking standard will continue to accelerate. One notable trend is the increasing global consensus around the standard, with more countries and organizations embracing it as the foundation for seamless health data exchange. This widespread acceptance will lead to even greater innovation as developers build on the collective knowledge and experiences of the global FHIR community. 

In addition to its growing global presence, the future of FHIR application development will be marked by the integration of advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). By incorporating these cutting-edge tools into FHIR-based applications, healthcare providers can unlock unprecedented insights and predictive capabilities, ultimately improving patient care and outcomes. 

For example, AI-powered FHIR applications could help providers identify patterns in patient data, enabling early detection of potential health issues and personalized treatment plans. Furthermore, ML algorithms could be used to analyze population health data, identify trends, and guide public health policy.

FHIR’s future will be shaped by its ability to foster greater patient engagement and empowerment. As patients increasingly take charge of their health, FHIR-based applications can provide them with access to their medical records, enabling them to make more informed decisions about their care. 

Lastly, the rise of patient-generated health data from wearables and other devices will create new opportunities for FHIR to facilitate secure and efficient data exchange between patients, providers, and other stakeholders. By prioritizing patient-centric approaches and leveraging the full potential of FHIR, the healthcare industry can embrace a more connected, interoperable future, leading to improved outcomes and enhanced overall well-being.


FHIR application development offers a wealth of opportunities for healthcare companies looking to embrace the digital age and enhance interoperability. The standard’s ability to streamline data exchange, improve patient outcomes, and simplify integration across platforms has made it a cornerstone of modern healthcare innovation. As we have explored throughout this article, understanding the fundamentals of FHIR, adopting best practices, and learning from real-world success stories can help organizations harness this groundbreaking technology’s full potential.

The future of FHIR and healthcare interoperability looks incredibly promising, with new advancements and trends continually emerging to address the evolving needs of the industry. By staying attuned to these developments and fostering a culture of innovation, healthcare companies can position themselves at the forefront of this transformation. The key lies in embracing FHIR as a strategic asset and investing in the right resources and expertise to capitalize on its inherent potential.

As a leading Seattle-based healthcare software development company, Itirra remains committed to helping organizations navigate the complexities of FHIR application development. By providing expert guidance, best practices, and customized solutions, we empower our clients to revolutionize patient care and drive operational excellence. We firmly believe that FHIR will continue to play a pivotal role in shaping the healthcare landscape, and we are excited to be a part of this journey toward a more efficient, interoperable, and patient-centric future.