Microsoft issues open source FHIR, moving deeper into health
- Microsoft announced the availability of FHIR Server for Azure, an open source project on GitHub aimed at facilitating exchange and management of healthcare data in the cloud.
- FHIR Server for Azure, Microsoft’s cloud computing service, sells support infrastructure, such as mapping to Azure Active Directory and capability for role-based access controls.
- “Developers can save time when it’s required to integrate a FHIR server into an application or use it as a foundation to customize a unique FHIR service,” Heather Cartwright, General Manager, Microsoft Healthcare, wrote in a blog.
Cloud platforms and fast healthcare interoperability resources (FHIR) are playing a larger role and more frequently seen in healthcare. About a third of health IT developers preparing to meet 2015 Edition EHR certification requirements are using FHIR Release 2 as a framework for interoperability, according to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. Of those, more than half are using FHIR combined with OAuth 2.0, the industry standard for authorization.
Overall, 87% of hospitals and 69% of Merit-Based Payment Incentive System-eligible clinicians use health IT developers that certify their product to some version of FHIR.
Apple was an early champion of FHIR Release 2, with a FHIR-based client app, but other major tech companies are shifting to the standard as well. A study published earlier this year in the journal Nature found that Google’s deep learning model outperformed traditional methods of sorting EHR data and predicting health-related outcomes. Among other things, the FHIR-based model led to 50% drop in the number of alerts needed to assess patient mortality, resulting in fewer false positives.
CMS Administrator Seema Verma has warned she won’t tolerate information blocking. The agency is “absolutely committed to interoperability and pushing every lever that we can,” Verma told this year’s Blue Button 2.0 Developers Conference. She said CMS is exploring making interoperability and data sharing a requirement for providers to participate in the Medicare program.
In August, Microsoft joined Google, Amazon, Oracle, IBM and Salesforce jointly committed to removing barriers to adoption of technologies for healthcare interoperability, particularly ones enabled through the cloud and artificial intelligence.
Microsoft’s FHIR Server for Azure is designed in layers to provide developers flexibility in implementing it and adapting its capabilities, Sorgen notes, including a hosting layer, RESTful API layer, a core logic layer and a persistence layer. The HIPAA-compliant software supports FHIR STU3.
Microsoft recently upped its stake in healthcare with the announcement of a formal unit, Microsoft Healthcare. The new team, which includes Jim Weinstein, former CEO and president of Dartmouth-Hitchcock healthcare system, and Joshua Mandel, who led Alphabet life sciences division Verily’s health IT ecosystems effort, formalizes Microsoft’s Healthcare NExT initiative, which launched last year to advance AI and cloud-based healthcare tools.
Corrected: This story has been corrected with accurate Microsoft job titles.