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Data agility and open standards in health: FHIR fueling interoperability in Azure

Open standards will drive the future of healthcare, and today, we're sharing the expansion of Microsoft’s portfolio for FHIR, with new open-source software (OSS) and connectors which will help customers at different stages of their journey to advance interoperability and secure exchange of Protected Health Information (PHI).

Data agility in healthcare; it sounds fantastic, but there are few data ecosystems as sophisticated and complex as healthcare. The path to data agility can often be elusive. Leaders in health are prioritizing and demanding cloud technology that works on open standards like Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) to transform how we manage data. Open standards will drive the future of healthcare, and today, we're sharing the expansion of Microsoft’s portfolio for FHIR, with new open-source software (OSS) and connectors which will help customers at different stages of their journey to advance interoperability and secure exchange of protected health information (PHI):

Enabling health data to work in the open format of FHIR enables us to innovate for the future of health. The Microsoft Azure API for FHIR was released to general availability in November 2019, and Azure was the first cloud with a fully-managed, enterprise-grade service for health data in the FHIR format. Since then, we’ve been actively working with customers so they can easily deploy an end-to-end pipeline for PHI in the cloud with the added security of FHIR APIs. From remote patient monitoring or clinical trials in the home environment to clinics and research teams, data needs to flow seamlessly in a trusted environment. Microsoft is empowering data agility with seamless data flows that leverage the open and secure framework of FHIR APIs.

Transform data to FHIR with the FHIR Converter

Health systems today have data in a variety of data formats and systems. The FHIR Converter provides your data team with a simple API call to convert data in legacy formats, such as HL7 V2, in real-time and convert it into FHIR. The current release includes the ability to transform HL7 V2 message utilizing a set of starting templates, generated on mappings defined by the HL7 community, but allows for customization to meet each organization’s implementation of the HL7 V2 standard using a simple Web UI. The FHIR Converter is designed as a simple, yet powerful, tool to reduce the amount of time and manual effort required in data mapping and exchange of data in FHIR.

Enable secondary use of FHIR data

The power of data organized in the FHIR framework means you can manage it more efficiently, particularly when you need to make data available for secondary use. Using FHIR Tools for Anonymization, your teams can leverage techniques, including de-identification through redaction or date-shifting for extraction, and exchange of data in anonymized formats. Because FHIR Tools for Anonymization is open source, you can work with it locally or with a cloud-based FHIR service like the Azure API for FHIR.

FHIR Tools for Anonymization enables de-identification of the 18 identifiers per the HIPAA Safe Harbor method. A configuration file is available for customers to create custom templates that meet their needs for Expert Determination methods.

Ingesting PHI data with FHIR, the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT)

Today’s healthcare data is not limited to patient charts and documents, it is expanding rapidly to include device data captured both inside and outside the clinician’s office. Customers can already use the powerful Azure IoT platform to manage devices and IoT solutions, but in the health industry, we need to pay special attention to managing PHI data from devices.

The IoMT FHIR Connector for Azure has been specifically designed for devices in health scenarios. Developed to work seamlessly with pre-built Azure functions and Microsoft Azure Event Hubs or the Microsoft Azure IoT platform, the IoMT connector ingests streaming data in real-time at millions of events per second. Customized settings allow developers to manage device content, sample data rates, and set the desired capture thresholds. Upon ingestion, device data is normalized, grouped, and mapped to FHIR that can be sent via FHIR APIs to an electronic health record (EHR) or other FHIR service. Supporting the open standard of FHIR means the IoMT FHIR Connector works with most devices, eliminating the need for custom integration for multiple device scenarios.

To enhance scale and connectivity with common patient-facing platforms that collect device data, the IoMT FHIR Connector is also launching with a FHIR HealthKit framework to quickly bring Apple HealthKit data to the cloud. 

Fueling data visualization in Power BI with real data

Customers love the rich data visualizations in Power BI that help everyone make decisions based on facts, not instinct. The Power BI Connector enables our health customers to light up robust tools for data visualization, analytics, and data exploration in Power BI using data in the FHIR format. With the control of FHIR APIs from an FHIR endpoint that uses the open standards, you still maintain flexibility and control data access allowing you to define user access as needed. Whether you need consistent event tracking or patient management reporting for your care teams, research tools and self-serve exploration for your clinical research teams, or predictive analytics and systems efficiency for your operations teams, the connection of FHIR and Power BI provides a powerful new tool for health organizations.

Check out the new FHIR tech

Microsoft is committed to data agility through FHIR. We believe FHIR is the fuel for innovation in healthcare and life sciences, and we’re excited to see what you build with it. The future of health is ours to create and we are excited to be at the innovation forefront of that journey with you.

We’d love to hear from health developers about the new FHIR products rolling out. Check out the OSS releases in GitHub.