Top Highlights from SQL on FHIR at FHIR North 2023

November 20, 2023

SQL on FHIR presentation came jam-packed with insights on simplifying complex FHIR data for analytics and reporting, while highlighting the benefits of adopting SQL on FHIR.

FHIR North 2023, Canada's online FHIR conference on October 17-18, talked about the future of healthcare tech. It's highly recommended for healthcare professionals, developers, and industry leaders. Vasilii Kupriakov, a software engineer at Health Samurai, actively participated in the event. During his session, he discussed the advancements and advantages of incorporating SQL into FHIR development.

Watch the full recording here.

Why is analyzing and reporting with FHIR data difficult?

Before we jump into SQL on FHIR, let's quickly outline why gaining insights from FHIR data is genuinely challenging.

  • Complex Nesting: FHIR data has intricate structures that pose difficulties in analysis.
  • Creating Flat Views: The process of flattening FHIR data for analysis can be challenging.
  • Standardization: There's a need for a standardized approach, addressed by SQL on FHIR, to simplify working with FHIR data in databases.

Who is behind SQL on FHIR?

SQL on FHIR is a collaborative effort involving experts from Google, CSIRO, Microsoft, Philips, NCQA, CQLab, Center Square Solutions, Vermonster and Health Samurai. They aim to set a standard for managing FHIR data in relational databases, crucial for efficient analytics due to the complex nesting of FHIR data.

What are the benefits of SQL on FHIR?

  • Flexibility for various needs: Different organizations can use either commercial or open-source tools based on their requirements.
  • Simplified tool development: A standard like SQL on FHIR makes it easier to create tools compatible with FHIR data.
  • Ready-to-use definitions: Offers pre-made queries and definitions for flattening FHIR data.

Why Choose SQL for FHIR Data?

  • Built on a strong foundation: SQL has been around for a long time and offers powerful tools for tasks like business intelligence, storing columns, managing transactions, and visualizing data.
  • Great at combining information: SQL is excellent for aggregating queries, which can be tricky with FHIR search capabilities.
  • Easy to use: Almost everyone is familiar with SQL, making it straightforward and widely usable.

How is FHIR data prepared for analytics and reporting?

We utilize the FHIRPath language to extract data from FHIR resources. It's currently employed in StructureDefinitions to set constraints and in defining search parameters.

  • The ViewDefinition resource forms the core of SQL on FHIR, detailing how to transform FHIR data into organized, flat rows.
  • ViewDefinitions let you easily create basic resources that can be queried with SQL.
  • It comprises select expressions defining columns and their corresponding FHIRPath expressions.
  • Additional properties cover resource types and database-friendly names for tables or views.
  • As a result, we obtain a table or view with flat rows, determined by the specified columns and expressions.

How to apply SQL on FHIR?

Vasilii demonstrated using synthetic data how to extract information from FHIR resources and build straightforward dashboards. In summary, with SQL on FHIR, you can:

  • Write code for extracting data
  • Create dashboards with simple view definitions
  • Perform metric calculation queries

Ready to get started with SQL on FHIR?

Check out the sneak peek of Health Samurai's SQL on FHIR engine, available for testing! Got questions or unique scenarios in mind? Share them with us. Want to see it in action? Book a meeting!

Learn more about Aidbox FHIR server

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