Case Study
7 Min Read

How Firely helped Datalink meet the Final Rule deadline 

Rien Wertheim

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DataLink connects stakeholders in the healthcare ecosystem to enable high-quality, cost-effective, value-based care. In this article we describe how Firely’s solutions and consultancy services helped the company solve an urgent issue with (g)(10) certification.  

About DataLink 

DataLink is on a mission to simplify the delivery of value-based care and optimal health outcomes. It partners with payers, providers, and government agencies to inform decision-making, improve quality, optimize risk accuracy, and analyze the metrics of success.

EvokeEHR is DataLink’s electronic health record product, covering everything from appointment scheduling and automated workflows, to data insights. It’s easily customized for multiple specialties and offers seamless integration with DataLink’s flagship Evoke360 platform.   

Doctor using EHR – source DataLink Software

DataLink’s FHIR journey: the build solution 

In common with other EHR systems, DataLink needed to implement a FHIR API by the end of 2022 in order to comply with the 21st Century Cures Act and meet the Final Rule deadline for (g)(10) certification.  

“Based on my experience I was confident I could create an API for an EHR. It’s familiar territory. But when I fully understood the scope of the requirements, in the context of the certification deadline, I realized we needed to get specialist expertise on board.
Firely’s tech stack was a perfect match for us. And when we hit a problem, they either co-developed a solution with us, or they had one already available.”

Mark Gilleland, Chief Architect at Datalink Software

With extensive experience in back-end integrations and building APIs, Chief Architect Mark Gilleland led the effort to implement the HL7 FHIR standard, designing and documenting the integration of EvokeEHR data with the FHIR server.  

Mark evaluated multiple FHIR servers for suitability in the DataLink environment and DataLink took a business decision to build its own solution using an open-source platform. 

Once the decision was made, Mark took on the ‘hard yards’ of mapping EvokeEHR data to FHIR. Everything seemed well on track, but when DataLink discussed (g)(10) certification with Drummond Group advisors the picture dramatically changed. 

Drummond flagged up that SMART on FHIR is required for (g)(10) certification and indicated the scope of the work involved. What looked like a manageable task had taken on a new dimension, and the open-source platform DataLink had selected wasn’t up to the job.  

DataLink was missing SMART on FHIR for authentication and authorization; the company didn’t have the resources to build it into their own identity server; and the clock was ticking. 

The buy solution – switching to Firely Server 

By mid-August 2022, it was clear that DataLink needed to urgently reconsider its build versus buy decision. Mark reviewed his earlier FHIR server evaluations, and Firely stood out as the best match on the grounds of expertise, experience, and its .NET tech stack – since most of DataLink’s development skillsets are also .NET based.  

While DataLink’s existing identity server could probably handle the authentication, writing the authorization rules would have involved an enormous effort and specialist expertise.  

After closely looking at their options, Datalink decided to purchase Firely Server, supported by a Firely Server workshop and additional consultancy time. 

Introducing Firely Auth  

Implementing a FHIR server can be a lot of work, but since Mark had already completed the FHIR mapping, and had previously decided against configuring the FHIR server as a Facade, switching to Firely Server was just a matter of changing to a platform with better capabilities.  

At the same time, Firely was developing Firely Auth as an identity server specifically created to ‘speak FHIR’. Given the urgency of the project, we agreed to deliver the pre-release version to DataLink so they could meet the certification criteria. We collaborated with them to develop Firely Auth to meet their use cases and configurations: in return, Firely obtained valuable feedback on enhancements and functionality in advance of the official Firely Auth launch later in 2023.  

Making the lights turn green  

Due to his exceptional knowledge of Firely Auth, and experience with Inferno and (g)(10), Firely’s Rich Almeida was assigned as lead consultant on the project, and remained on call right up until DataLink was (g)(10) certified. He got to work right away, making Firely Server pass Inferno in multiple configurations, and passed this work to DataLink with clear instructions for implementation in EvokeEHR.  

Most of the effort now focused around Firely Auth and the hard work of ‘getting the tests to turn green’ and pass Inferno. This required changes in Mark’s mapping code and in Firely Auth, and was a laborious process: changes, tests, results, changes, rinse and repeat. And as Mark pointed out: “There were an awful lot of tests!” 

“Firely were friendly and easy to talk to. They impressed us with their knowledge, and we immediately felt confident we’d get the outcome we needed. And communication was great, even with the time zone difference.”

Samantha Kirk, Product Manager EHR & Interoperability at DataLink Software

DataLink then ran three pre-testing cycles with Drummond. At more than 80%, the score for the first cycle was exceptionally high. The second cycle uncovered the need for some coding changes, and DataLink passed the third round without incident.  

The time allotted for the official certification session on 12 December 2022 was three hours, and three Firely colleagues were standing by to provide support. But thanks to Firely Auth and Mark and Rich’s skill and commitment, DataLink passed certification within 45 minutes.  

Collaboration and communication  

The success of this assignment highlights the importance of good communication, fast turnaround, and specialist knowledge, and the advantages of buying a solution when you need to have a compliant interoperability solution in place. As healthcare IT continues to evolve, having a certified FHIR solution opens up more integration points with EHR clients, and new opportunities for DataLink to develop its EvokeEHR product. 

DataLink’s in-house development expertise coupled with the ease of working with Firely products and documentation meant the collaboration went exceptionally smoothly, proving once again that Firely has the right expertise to assist when it comes to FHIR implementation. We continue our dialogue with Mark, who is now providing valuable feedback on ways EvokeEHR can integrate with Firely Server. 

If you’ve experienced unexpected challenges with EHR interoperability, need help in meeting (g)(10) certification, or simply want to harness the full power of FHIR, feel free to get in touch.  

To learn more about how Firely can help you become compliant with ONC’s Cures Act Final Rule, check out our website. Our consultants will help you successfully implement Firely Server and get the most out of FHIR.

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