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Most large ANZ healthcare organisations are planning to play with FHIR: report

22 March 2024
By Kate McDonald

A survey of large healthcare organisations in Australia and New Zealand has found that 13 per cent of respondents currently use a FHIR-based interoperability platform and just over 55 per cent are in the planning stages of deploying the international standard.

However, a significant number of respondents say they will not shift to FHIR as they don’t yet see the benefits of it, the survey found.

The ANZ State of Healthcare Analytics & Interoperability Study 2024, conducted by advisory firm Ecosystm and sponsored by InterSystems, surveyed 240 healthcare executives to understand their business and data challenges. Most were based in Australia, with about with 90 executives surveyed in New Zealand.

InterSystems’ regional director of data platforms Andrew Aho told the HL7 Australia/HL7 New Zealand joint symposium this week that the study is an ongoing annual survey which had added some new questions about FHIR and interoperability, revealed in the latest report.

78 per cent of survey respondents said that analytics or the use of data is important and is one of or more of the top five priorities of the organisation.

“Anecdotally, we knew from what our customers tell us that people are looking to do more with data,” Mr Aho said. “They want improved clinical outcomes. They want better patient outcomes, and better data management.

“And of course, these days, it’s all about generative AI and artificial intelligence and predictive analytics.”

What InterSystems wanted to do through the survey was find out exactly what barriers there were to using data and what it was what was creating those blockages.

“If I had to summarise this in one sentence, it would be that healthcare organisations are struggling to harness the power of data,” Mr Aho said.

One thing that is inhibiting better use of data is data quality, he said. The study showed that 47 per cent of respondents have full trust in their data, but that means more than half do not.

“Data quality is a key one. But people did also say there’s an inability to access real time data and I hear this regularly.

“We’re not doing a good enough job to realise that in some cases, if you’re talking about data that has to reach surgeon in theatre, the real time requirements are very different to what might be needed if you are chasing aged debts in accounts.”

“So there’s really work to be done here in terms of giving people what they want, not just the data, but where they need it, how they need it, and how they also wish to access it.”

Respondents were asked what outcomes they would like to see from the use of data and their investments in it, and the top three were around the patient: identification of patient risk; improvement in patient outcomes and experience; and reducing clinical errors.

It was expected that there would be some cost reduction initiatives as part of this, as well as improved governance, risk and compliance, he said.

“But then when we dig into the data, a few things went a little awry. Despite the good intentions, the top three funded areas where the money is actually going is all around compliance with government mandates, cost optimisation or upgrading legacy technology systems, and improving clinical outcomes, which we thought would be number one, is trailing third.

Mr Aho said he believes that using standards can help all healthcare organisations achieve those three things at the same time.

The survey looked at expected changes in the current interoperability environment, and there were some interesting findings, he said.

“Number one is that people do want standardisation of data exchange, and they really want to see improved movement between different care settings.”

On specific questions about FHIR and interoperability, the data showed that 13 per cent of organisations are either using FHIR or they have some sort of FHIR template capability in their organisation today.

“There’s also a large proportion of people, 55 per cent, who are planning to shift to FHIR so, obviously Sparked and other initiatives are heading us in the right direction,” he said.

“But there are 30 per cent of people who are saying they are not shifting to FHIR because they don’t see the value or are undecided, so there is work to do.”

The survey also assessed what the respondents thought the benefits of adopting FHIR were. 58 per cent said access to real-time data, 55 per cent said automated data structuring, 50 per cent said increased data accuracy, 48 per cent said safe and easy data exchange and 47 per cent said better access to health records for patients.

“If you want to enable and empower these advanced uses of the data, or even just simple uses of the data, you need to make sure that access to the data is in whatever real time is contextual to that person,” Mr Aho said.

“It’s got to have sufficient structuring that you can do something sensible with it. And that it’s accurate, and it has to be able to build those elements so you can get the trust. Otherwise, you end up with the garbage in garbage out problem that we’ve all faced.”

Mr Aho said the survey had some good news. “People do want to do more with data, we are heading in the right direction, but there are some obvious things that we need to do on adoption of standards and the work that’s happening [through HL7 on FHIR] is obviously core to to driving that forward.”

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2 comments on “Most large ANZ healthcare organisations are planning to play with FHIR: report”

  1. And what of ADHA and the fool’s gold commonly known as My Health Record? Zero support of FHIR unless you consider a Draft Standard for Trial Use (DSTU) version 1.4 circa 2016 used for a read-only mobile API only utilised by ADHA’s own mobile app and healthdirect.

    429mn over two years “to modernise My Health Record” – more than 6 months into the modernisation and what’s been achieved? Probably much like the last 12 years – not very much at all, and probably going backwards by continuing to push the “more garbage in” button.

    So in the context of FHIR, 429mn, ADHA & fool’s gold – what’s the point? At the end of modernising My Health Record in 2 years what do we get? Will all the meaningless data previously uploaded be now meaningful? – No. Will industry automagically start uploading FHIR – No. Will it cost less to run and maintain ADHA and MHR – No. Will I have better health outcomes – No. Will we have flushed 429mn away – without doubt.

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