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A Data Transformation Methodology to Create Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable Health Data: Software Design, Development, and Evaluation Study

J Med Internet Res. 2023 Mar 8;25:e42822. doi: 10.2196/42822.


BACKGROUND: Sharing health data is challenging because of several technical, ethical, and regulatory issues. The Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable (FAIR) guiding principles have been conceptualized to enable data interoperability. Many studies provide implementation guidelines, assessment metrics, and software to achieve FAIR-compliant data, especially for health data sets. Health Level 7 (HL7) Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) is a health data content modeling and exchange standard.

OBJECTIVE: Our goal was to devise a new methodology to extract, transform, and load existing health data sets into HL7 FHIR repositories in line with FAIR principles, develop a Data Curation Tool to implement the methodology, and evaluate it on health data sets from 2 different but complementary institutions. We aimed to increase the level of compliance with FAIR principles of existing health data sets through standardization and facilitate health data sharing by eliminating the associated technical barriers.

METHODS: Our approach automatically processes the capabilities of a given FHIR end point and directs the user while configuring mappings according to the rules enforced by FHIR profile definitions. Code system mappings can be configured for terminology translations through automatic use of FHIR resources. The validity of the created FHIR resources can be automatically checked, and the software does not allow invalid resources to be persisted. At each stage of our data transformation methodology, we used particular FHIR-based techniques so that the resulting data set could be evaluated as FAIR. We performed a data-centric evaluation of our methodology on health data sets from 2 different institutions.

RESULTS: Through an intuitive graphical user interface, users are prompted to configure the mappings into FHIR resource types with respect to the restrictions of selected profiles. Once the mappings are developed, our approach can syntactically and semantically transform existing health data sets into HL7 FHIR without loss of data utility according to our privacy-concerned criteria. In addition to the mapped resource types, behind the scenes, we create additional FHIR resources to satisfy several FAIR criteria. According to the data maturity indicators and evaluation methods of the FAIR Data Maturity Model, we achieved the maximum level (level 5) for being Findable, Accessible, and Interoperable and level 3 for being Reusable.

CONCLUSIONS: We developed and extensively evaluated our data transformation approach to unlock the value of existing health data residing in disparate data silos to make them available for sharing according to the FAIR principles. We showed that our method can successfully transform existing health data sets into HL7 FHIR without loss of data utility, and the result is FAIR in terms of the FAIR Data Maturity Model. We support institutional migration to HL7 FHIR, which not only leads to FAIR data sharing but also eases the integration with different research networks.

PMID:36884270 | DOI:10.2196/42822

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