Are you tired of dealing with the complexities of fragmented healthcare data, navigating the hurdles of limited data sharing, and wrestling with the integration complexities that hinder innovation in healthcare applications? If you’re someone developing a healthcare application, you’re likely well-acquainted with the challenges of standardizing data exchange and achieving true healthcare data interoperability.

In this blog post, we examine the transformative power of SMART on FHIR and offer insights into how this innovative solution is breaking down the barriers to seamless data sharing and integration in the healthcare industry. Discover how embracing a standardized data format and streamlined access methods can not only reduce integration complexities but also spark innovation in healthcare applications.

This isn’t just about improving interoperability; it’s about creating a connected and efficient healthcare system that resonates with the aspirations and challenges faced by tech professionals in the healthcare technology sector.

What is SMART on FHIR?

Before Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) were introduced, healthcare data was stuck in silos created by proprietary Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems. This lack of communication among different systems meant that developers faced a daunting task when developing applications that needed to interact with diverse Electronic Health Record (EHR) platforms. The absence of standardized data formats and clear guidelines made the development process complex, requiring intricate workarounds to ensure compatibility across various proprietary systems. SMART on FHIR has emerged as a game-changer in healthcare interoperability.

SMART on FHIR represents a transformative approach to healthcare interoperability, combining two key elements: SMART (Substitutable Medical Applications and Reusable Technologies) and FHIR (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources). SMART establishes open standards, facilitating seamless integration of healthcare applications with electronic health records (EHRs) and ensuring user-friendly experiences within existing clinical workflows.

On the other hand, FHIR acts as a standardized language for exchanging a broad spectrum of healthcare data electronically, enabling rich data exchange beyond basic demographics. SMART on FHIR opens the door to innovative applications, easing EHR integration and ultimately enhancing care delivery by promoting interoperability, improving efficiency, empowering patients, and fostering innovation in the healthcare landscape.

Related Read : Benefits and Challenges of The Electronic Health Record

What makes SMART on FHIR the bridge we need?

SMART on FHIR brings a revolutionary approach to healthcare technology, particularly from a technical standpoint. It provides developers with clear guidelines, offering step-by-step instructions on creating secure applications that utilize Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) for accessing and exchanging patient data.

SMART on FHIR is a game-changer that streamlines the development process and ensures application consistency. This framework simplifies the integration of new applications and enhances security, ensuring a seamless experience for both developers and end-users.

In simpler terms, SMART on FHIR acts as the essential link between FHIR’s standardized data and its applications. Think of it as a bridge that empowers developers to create innovative tools. These tools, in turn, contribute to enhancing patient care, streamlining workflows, and providing healthcare providers with a more comprehensive view of their patients’ health.

Let’s take a closer look at what makes SMART on FHIR stand out by exploring its unique features –

Key Features of SMART on FHIR

Standardized Interface

SMART on FHIR revolutionizes healthcare by introducing a standardized interface as a universal language. It ensures that all healthcare apps communicate in the same language when interacting with Electronic Health Record (EHR) data. Due to this, healthcare providers can effortlessly integrate a wide range of innovative tools without worrying about compatibility issues or the complexities of integration.

EHR Integration

As a vital bridge, SMART on FHIR facilitates the seamless integration of healthcare applications with EHR systems. Offering a secure framework for launching these apps directly within the EHR interface enables doctors to access powerful tools without navigating away from their familiar EHR environment. This integration streamlines workflows and enhances overall efficiency in healthcare delivery.

FHIR Compatibility

SMART on FHIR builds upon the established foundation of (FHIR). The regulatory framework serves as a standardized data format for healthcare information, ensuring a unified integration process and effortless data exchange between applications and EHRs. The approach leverages existing standards to create a robust and interoperable healthcare ecosystem.

User Authentication

As we know, healthcare data demands security. SMART on FHIR places a strong emphasis on user authentication protocols. SMART on FHIR leverages industry standards like OAuth 2.0 and OpenID Connect to ensure secure user authentication. This allows healthcare organizations to integrate platforms like Auth0, a leading identity and access management solution, to manage user logins and control access to patient data.

By implementing multi-factor authentication through Auth0, healthcare providers can add an extra layer of security to the SMART on FHIR workflow. Multi-factor authentication ensures only authorized individuals, like doctors and nurses, can access patient data through integrated applications. By implementing multi-factor authentication and secure login processes, SMART on FHIR establishes a robust security layer to protect sensitive information.

App Authorization

SMART on FHIR gives healthcare providers the power to control data access precisely, recognizing the importance of subtle control. With this technology, providers can define permissions for each app, ensuring that only the necessary information is shared. This approach strengthens data and upholds patient privacy, aligning with the highest standards of confidentiality.

By seamlessly integrating these features, SMART on FHIR promises a new era of interoperability, equipping healthcare professionals with the sophisticated tools essential for delivering exceptional patient care.

See how we implemented FHIR in Childbirth Management application

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Check how we streamlined data processes, enhanced efficiency, and substantial cost savings for the Childbirth Management application

The SMART Launch Sequence: A Step-by-Step Breakdown

The SMART launch sequence is a crucial process that ensures a secure and seamless connection between your SMART on FHIR application and a patient’s EHRs. Each step in this sequence plays a vital role in establishing a robust and interoperable link, facilitating efficient data exchange, and promoting interoperability in healthcare systems.

Let’s break down each step for a clearer understanding.

Step 1 – Application Launch

The application launch is triggered when users interact with your application by clicking a link or button within the Electronic Health Record (EHR) system. This initiation prompts the user’s browser to be redirected to a predefined URL supplied by the EHR system. This redirection mechanism is a fundamental aspect of the secure and standardized approach adopted by SMART on FHIR, facilitating a controlled and authenticated transition between the EHR environment and your application.

Step 2 – Request Access

The URL generated from the EHR system directs users to the authorization server. This authorization server plays a vital role by presenting a login screen where users are prompted to confirm their identity. Through this secure authentication process, users can grant explicit access permissions to your application, ensuring that only authorized individuals can interact with and retrieve data from the patient’s Electronic Health Record (EHR) system.

This step establishes a critical layer of security, safeguarding sensitive health information throughout the integration process.

Step 3 – Receive Tokens

After a successful login, the authorization server redirects the user’s browser to your application. Your application receives an authorization code—a temporary key along with the redirection. The authorization code is crucial, enabling your application to obtain more permanent access tokens securely.

These tokens facilitate ongoing interactions between your SMART on the FHIR application and the patient’s Electronic Health Record (EHR) system, ensuring continued secure access to relevant health data.

Step 4 – Client Request to Access or Modify Clinical Data

In the fourth step of the SMART launch sequence, your application utilizes the authorization code acquired and establishes a connection with the EHR’s token endpoint. Your application sends a request through this connection that includes the authorization code and other pertinent information.

This step is crucial as it serves as the mechanism for exchanging the temporary authorization code for more durable access and refresh tokens. These tokens help your application securely access or modify clinical data within the patient’s EHR, maintaining the integrity and confidentiality of health information.

Step 5 – Validate Token

In the further stage, the token endpoint receives the request from your application and performs a crucial verification process by validating the authorization code with the authorization server. Upon successful validation, the token endpoint generates two necessary tokens for your application:

Access Token: This token is a temporary permission slip granting your application the specific authorization to access defined patient data within the Electronic Health Record (EHR) system based on the user’s consent.

Refresh Token: This token is designed to obtain new access tokens when the current one expires. It plays a crucial role in ensuring continuous and uninterrupted access to patient data, enhancing the longevity and sustainability of your application’s integration with the EHR system.

Step 6 – Response of the Server to Access or Change Clinical Data

In the sixth step of the SMART launch sequence, your application, now equipped with the access token from the previous stage, is ready to request the Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) API within the Electronic Health Record (EHR) system.

These requests can serve two primary purposes:

Retrieve Specific Patient Data: Your application can request specific patient information, such as allergies or medications, based on the authorized scopes granted during the initial authentication process.

Modify Data within the EHR System: Your application can request to modify data within the EHR system with appropriate permissions.

The EHR FHIR server validates the received access token before responding to your application’s requests. If the access token is valid, the server fulfills the request by delivering the requested data or confirming the successful modification. This secure exchange ensures that your application only accesses authorized data, safeguarding patient privacy and maintaining the integrity of the clinical information.

How to Develop a SMART on FHIR Application

Step 1: Define your app’s purpose:

SMART on FHIR applications are designed to connect with Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems and leverage healthcare data. A well-defined purpose for your application is crucial, as it will guide the features you develop and the data you access.

Here are some questions to consider when defining your app’s purpose:

  • What problem are you trying to solve for patients or providers?
  • What specific data will your app need from the EHR system?
  • How will your app use this data to improve patient care or healthcare workflows?

By clearly outlining your app's purpose, you can ensure it meets a genuine need and provides value within the healthcare ecosystem.

Step 2: Security First

Patient data is essential. Here's how to ensure the highest security standards:

Robust Authentication: Implement secure mechanisms for users to access your application. This might involve leveraging existing EHR login credentials.

FHIR Server Security: Partner with FHIR server providers who prioritize robust security configurations and encryption protocols.

Regular Security Audits: Proactive is key! Conduct regular security audits to identify and address potential vulnerabilities before they become threats.

Step 3 - Feature Development

Now comes the exciting part - building your app's functionalities:

FHIR Client Library: Choose a library like FHIR.js or the SMART on FHIR SDK to streamline interaction with the FHIR server.

User-Friendly Interface: Design an intuitive interface that caters to your target audience. Consider a clinician's fast-paced workflow or a patient's need for clear instructions.
API Integration: Expand your app's capabilities by integrating APIs for functionalities like sending notifications or generating data visualizations.

Continuous Testing: Write unit and integration tests throughout development to ensure your code functions flawlessly.

Step 4 - Sandbox Testing

Before releasing your app in the real world, test it in a safe sandbox environment:

SMART on FHIR Sandboxes: These are simulated environments provided by EHR vendors or organizations like SMART Health IT.

Mock Patient Data: Sandboxes provide anonymized patient data for testing, ensuring accurate patient information remains secure.

Workflow Testing: Thoroughly test your app's workflow within the sandbox, simulating real-world use cases to identify and fix any issues.

Step 5 - Deployment

It's time to make your app accessible:

Register Your App: Register your application with the appropriate SMART on the FHIR authorization server, typically provided by your EHR vendor.

Deployment Options: Choose a deployment strategy based on your target audience. Consider hosting on a public cloud platform or embedding it within the EHR system.

User Onboarding: Provide clear user documentation and training materials to ensure a smooth transition for your app's users.

Some key points to consider -

Review FHIR Implementation Guides: These resources offer best practices for building SMART on FHIR apps in specific healthcare domains.

Consider FHIR Certification: Certifying your app demonstrates adherence to FHIR standards, boosting user trust and credibility.

Ongoing Maintenance and Updates: Just like maintaining any application, plan for regular maintenance, bug fixes, and updates to keep your app secure and running optimally.

Following these steps and prioritizing security, you can develop a powerful SMART on FHIR application that contributes to a more connected and data-driven healthcare ecosystem.


In conclusion, SMART on FHIR revolutionizes healthcare by addressing interoperability challenges, offering a standardized interface, and streamlining data sharing. The SMART launch sequence ensures a secure connection between applications and EHR systems, enhancing patient data confidentiality.

SMART on FHIR's promise lies in bridging healthcare data gaps, leading to improved patient care and streamlined workflows. Embracing this innovation means embracing a future where healthcare information seamlessly follows patients, creating a more connected and patient-centric healthcare experience. The journey towards interoperability signifies a leap towards a well-connected and responsive healthcare ecosystem.

At Mindbowser, we proudly present HealthConnect, a cutting-edge healthcare integration solution with SMART on FHIR capabilities. HealthConnect is not just a bridge; it's a solution that adheres to technical standards like FHIR and HL7. It's designed to be a secure gateway, utilizing HIPAA compliance to protect patient data during integration. HealthConnect transforms complex patient data into actionable insights, empowering clinicians to make informed decisions. It also offers comprehensive API/SDK support for your healthcare application needs.

Let's navigate the intricacies of healthcare together, with HealthConnect leading the way.

Meet the Author
Pravin Uttarwar , CTO Mindbowser

Pravin has 16+ years of experience in the tech industry. A high-energy individual who loves to use out-of-the-box thinking to solve problems. He not only brings technical expertise to the table but also wears an entrepreneurial hat – benefiting any project with cost savings and adding more value to business strategy.

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