Healthcare Interoperability: Exploring the Potential of the FHIR QuestionnaireResponse Resource

The Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) standard has emerged as a pivotal framework in the field of healthcare data exchange and interoperability, offering a standardized approach to sharing electronic health records (EHRs), clinical data, and other medical information. Within the FHIR ecosystem, the “QuestionnaireResponse” resource plays a crucial role in capturing and conveying patient-generated data, clinical assessments, and responses to questionnaires. This resource serves as a digital representation of a patient’s or a healthcare provider’s responses to structured questionnaires, surveys, or assessments, allowing for the seamless exchange of information between different healthcare systems and stakeholders.


The FHIR QuestionnaireResponse resource is designed to capture a wide array of data, ranging from patient-reported outcomes and symptom assessments to clinical surveys and research questionnaires. This resource adheres to FHIR’s core principles of simplicity, flexibility, and extensibility, ensuring that it can accommodate diverse healthcare contexts and accommodate various data requirements. QuestionnaireResponses can encompass both single-choice and multi-choice questions, as well as free-text responses, numeric values, and date inputs, making it versatile enough to capture a comprehensive range of patient-generated information.

One of the key strengths of the QuestionnaireResponse resource is its capacity to streamline data exchange between different healthcare systems and applications, thereby promoting better coordination of care and research efforts. For instance, a patient’s responses to a pre-visit questionnaire could be transmitted to their healthcare provider, enabling the provider to prepare for the upcoming appointment by reviewing the patient’s reported symptoms and concerns. Moreover, this resource also supports the integration of patient-generated data into electronic health records, facilitating a more holistic view of a patient’s health and enabling healthcare providers to make informed decisions based on comprehensive information.

FHIR QuestionnaireResponse Resource
FHIR QuestionnaireResponse Resource

In essence, the FHIR QuestionnaireResponse resource stands as a vital building block within the FHIR framework, offering a standardized and interoperable means of collecting, exchanging, and integrating patient-generated data and clinical assessments. Its capacity to capture diverse types of responses and its ability to facilitate seamless data exchange holds the potential to enhance patient care, clinical decision-making, and medical research by ensuring that valuable information is accurately conveyed and utilized across different healthcare contexts.

Structure of FHIR QuestionnaireResponse Resource

Here is the structure of the FHIR QuestionnaireResponse resource in JSON format along with an explanation of each element. Other format like XML and Turtle is also present, but for simplicity here we will take the example of JSON format. The complete structure details can be found here.

  "resourceType": "QuestionnaireResponse",
  "id": "example-questionnaireresponse",
  "meta": {
    "versionId": "1",
    "lastUpdated": "2023-08-15T12:00:00Z"
  "identifier": [
      "system": "",
      "value": "123456"
  "questionnaire": "",
  "status": "completed",
  "subject": {
    "reference": "Patient/123"
  "authored": "2023-08-15T10:00:00Z",
  "author": {
    "reference": "Practitioner/456"
  "item": [
      "linkId": "q1",
      "text": "Do you smoke?",
      "answer": [
          "valueBoolean": true
      "linkId": "q2",
      "text": "How often do you exercise?",
      "answer": [
          "valueString": "3 times a week"
      "linkId": "q3",
      "text": "Please rate your stress level (1-10):",
      "answer": [
          "valueInteger": 7

Explanation of the JSON elements:

  • resourceType: Indicates that the resource is a QuestionnaireResponse.
  • id: A unique identifier for this specific QuestionnaireResponse resource.
  • meta: Contains metadata about the resource, such as version information and the last update timestamp.
  • identifier: A unique identifier for the QuestionnaireResponse, often used for tracking or linking.
  • questionnaire: A reference to the questionnaire that this response is associated with.
  • status: Indicates the status of the questionnaire response. In this example, it’s set to “completed”.
  • subject: A reference to the subject of the questionnaire, which could be a patient or another resource.
  • authored: The date and time when the response was authored.
  • author: A reference to the author of the response, such as a practitioner.
  • item: An array of items representing individual questions in the questionnaire.
    • linkId: A unique identifier for the question within the questionnaire.
    • text: The text of the question.
    • answer: An array containing the answers to the question.
      • valueBoolean, valueString, valueInteger: Different types of answer values based on the type of question.

Commonly used fields in FHIR QuestionnaireResponse Resource

Here are some of the most commonly used fields in the FHIR QuestionnaireResponse resource along with explanations for each:

  • resourceType: Indicates the type of FHIR resource, which is “QuestionnaireResponse” in this case.
  • id: A unique identifier assigned to the QuestionnaireResponse resource.
  • status: Represents the status of the questionnaire response, such as “in-progress,” “completed,” or “amended.” It indicates the current state of the response.
  • subject: Refers to the subject of the questionnaire response, which could be a patient, a group, or another resource. It establishes the context of the response.
  • authored: Denotes the date and time when the response was authored or completed. It helps track when the response was created.
  • author: Points to the individual or entity who authored the questionnaire response, often a healthcare practitioner or system.
  • questionnaire: Contains a reference to the questionnaire that the response is associated with. It establishes the link between the response and the original questionnaire.
  • item: An array of items representing individual questions or groups within the questionnaire. Each item includes relevant information about the question, such as its text, answer choices, and response.
  • linkId: A unique identifier for each question or group within the questionnaire. It’s used to link the response to the corresponding question.
  • text: Provides the human-readable text of the question or group, aiding in understanding the purpose of the item.
  • answer: Contains the response to the question or group. The answer can take different formats depending on the type of question, such as boolean, string, integer, or coding.
  • valueBoolean, valueString, valueInteger: These fields are used within the “answer” element to store the actual response value based on the type of question. For example, for a yes/no question, “valueBoolean” might be used, while for a text-based question, “valueString” would be relevant.
  • valueCoding: If the response involves selecting from a predefined set of codes, this field can be used to store the selected code.
  • valueDateTime, valueDate, valueTime: These fields are used to store date and time-related responses, allowing for accurate capture of temporal data.
  • valueQuantity: If the response involves a numeric quantity (e.g., height, weight), this field can be used to store the value along with its unit of measurement.
  • valueReference: If the response involves referencing another resource, such as a medication or condition, this field can be used to store the reference.
  • valueAttachment: If the response involves attachments like images or documents, this field can be used to store the attachment information.

These commonly used fields collectively make up the structure of the FHIR QuestionnaireResponse resource, facilitating the standardized representation and exchange of patient-generated data and clinical assessments within the healthcare ecosystem.

A use case where FHIR QuestionnaireResponse Resource can be utilized

Use Case: Patient Health Assessment Survey

Description: In a primary care setting, healthcare providers often need to collect comprehensive health information from patients before their appointments to ensure effective and focused consultations. This information includes lifestyle habits, medical history, and current health status. Manual data collection can be time-consuming and prone to errors. To streamline this process, a digital solution using the FHIR QuestionnaireResponse resource can be implemented.

Solution: A digital patient health assessment survey can be developed as a structured questionnaire using the FHIR Questionnaire resource. This questionnaire would include various questions about the patient’s medical history, current symptoms, lifestyle choices, and other relevant information. Once the questionnaire is created, patients can access it through a secure patient portal or a mobile app.

When a patient completes the survey, their responses are stored as a FHIR QuestionnaireResponse resource. Each question in the survey corresponds to an “item” within the QuestionnaireResponse, containing the question’s linkId, text, and the patient’s response using appropriate value elements (valueBoolean, valueString, etc.). For instance, questions about smoking habits might use valueBoolean, while questions about exercise frequency might use valueString.

The patient’s completed QuestionnaireResponse resource is then associated with their electronic health record (EHR) by referencing the patient’s identifier in the “subject” field. This creates a comprehensive record of the patient’s responses, which can be easily accessed by healthcare providers.

During the patient’s visit, healthcare providers can review the patient’s QuestionnaireResponse to gain insights into the patient’s health status and concerns. This allows providers to tailor their consultations, ask follow-up questions, and provide more personalized care.

In summary, utilizing the FHIR QuestionnaireResponse resource in this use case enables a seamless and standardized approach to collecting, storing, and utilizing patient-generated health data. It enhances the efficiency of data collection, improves data accuracy, and empowers healthcare providers to deliver more informed and patient-centered care.

Here are a few general or interview questions related to the QuestionnaireResponse resource, which aims to gauge your knowledge about the resource, its practical application, and your understanding of healthcare interoperability principles.

1. What is the purpose of the FHIR QuestionnaireResponse resource?

The FHIR QuestionnaireResponse resource serves as a standardized format for capturing and exchanging structured responses to questionnaires, surveys, and assessments within the healthcare domain. It enables the seamless collection and sharing of patient-generated data, clinical assessments, and research information across different healthcare systems and stakeholders.

2. How does the FHIR QuestionnaireResponse resource contribute to interoperability in healthcare?

The FHIR QuestionnaireResponse resource enhances interoperability by providing a common structure for representing patient-generated data and clinical assessments. It ensures that data collected through different systems can be understood and utilized uniformly, facilitating more effective communication and coordination among healthcare providers, researchers, and patients.

3. Can you explain the basic structure of a FHIR QuestionnaireResponse resource?

The basic structure of an FHIR QuestionnaireResponse resource includes fields such as “id,” “status,” “subject,” “authored,” “author,” “questionnaire,” and “item.” The “item” field contains an array of questions or groups from the associated questionnaire, each with a “linkId,” “text,” and “answer” elements to capture the responses.

4. What are some common fields within the FHIR QuestionnaireResponse resource and their purposes?

  • “status”: Represents the status of the questionnaire response.
  • “subject”: Refers to the subject of the response (e.g., patient).
  • “authored”: Indicates when the response was authored.
  • “author”: Specifies the author of the response (e.g., practitioner).
  • “questionnaire”: Contains a reference to the associated questionnaire.
  • “item”: An array of questions or groups and their responses.

5. How is the “status” field used in the FHIR QuestionnaireResponse resource? Can you provide examples of possible values?

The “status” field indicates the state of the questionnaire response, such as “in-progress,” “completed,” “amended,” or “entered-in-error.” For instance, if a patient has completed a survey, the status would be “completed.” This field reflects the stage of data collection and the overall progress of the response.

6. What is the significance of the “subject” field in the FHIR QuestionnaireResponse resource?

The “subject” field refers to the entity or resource to which the questionnaire response pertains. It establishes the context of the response, whether it’s a specific patient, a group, or another relevant subject. This linking enables effective association of the response with the appropriate individual or entity.

7. Describe a scenario where the FHIR QuestionnaireResponse resource would be useful in a healthcare setting.

In a telemedicine application, a patient completes a pre-appointment health assessment questionnaire through a patient portal. The completed questionnaire response represented as an FHIR resource, is then accessible to the attending physician, allowing them to review the patient’s reported symptoms, medical history, and concerns before the virtual consultation. This ensures a focused and informed interaction between the patient and the provider.

8. How does the “authored” field contribute to the accuracy and context of a FHIR QuestionnaireResponse resource?

The “authored” field records the timestamp when the questionnaire response was authored or completed. This timestamp provides valuable context, helping healthcare providers understand when the patient’s information was captured. It is particularly relevant for tracking changes over time and ensuring the accuracy of the clinical information.

9. Explain the role of the “item” array within the FHIR QuestionnaireResponse resource. How does it represent the structure of a questionnaire?

The “item” array within the FHIR QuestionnaireResponse resource represents the questions or groups from the associated questionnaire. Each “item” includes a “linkId” that corresponds to the question in the original questionnaire, along with its human-readable “text” and the patient’s “answer” to the question. This array captures the hierarchical structure of the questionnaire and the responses associated with each item.

10. What are the different types of answer values that can be included in the “answer” field of a FHIR QuestionnaireResponse resource? Provide examples.

The “answer” field can hold various types of values based on the nature of the question:

  • “valueBoolean”: For yes/no or true/false questions (e.g., “Do you smoke?” – true).
  • “valueString”: For free-text responses (e.g., “What is your current medication?” – “I take aspirin”).
  • “valueInteger”: For numeric responses (e.g., “How many hours do you sleep?” – 7).
  • “valueDate”, “valueTime”, “valueDateTime”: For date and time-related responses.
  • “valueCoding”: For selecting from predefined codes (e.g., “Select your gender” – Male).
  • “valueQuantity”: For responses involving quantities with units (e.g., “What is your weight?” – 70 kg).
  • “valueReference”: For referencing other resources (e.g., “What is your primary care provider?” – Reference to a Practitioner).

11. Explain the concept of “linkId” and how it’s used within the FHIR QuestionnaireResponse resource.

The “linkId” is a unique identifier assigned to each question or group within the FHIR QuestionnaireResponse resource. It acts as a key to link the responses to their corresponding questions in the original questionnaire. This identifier ensures that responses are accurately associated with the right questions, even if the questionnaire structure evolves over time.

12. Can you provide an example of how the FHIR QuestionnaireResponse resource could be used to capture structured data about medication adherence?

Let’s say a patient is provided with a questionnaire to track medication adherence. Each day, the patient responds to questions like “Did you take your morning medication?” (with a yes/no response) or “Did you take your evening medication?” (again, with a yes/no response). The responses, captured using the “answer” field with “valueBoolean,” reflect the patient’s adherence to their medication regimen.

13. How would you handle situations where a patient’s response doesn’t fit neatly into the predefined answer value types in the FHIR QuestionnaireResponse resource?

In cases where responses don’t align with predefined answer value types, FHIR offers flexibility. For instance, if a patient provides a detailed explanation in response to a yes/no question, the explanation could be captured using the “valueString” field. While this might not be the primary intended use, it allows for capturing unanticipated or nuanced responses without compromising the structured nature of the data.

14. Discuss potential challenges and considerations when implementing systems that generate and manage FHIR QuestionnaireResponse resources in a healthcare environment.

Implementing systems that handle FHIR QuestionnaireResponse resources involves challenges such as designing user-friendly interfaces for data input, ensuring data validation to prevent errors, addressing data privacy concerns during data exchange, and maintaining compatibility with evolving versions of FHIR standards. Moreover, proper training and support for healthcare professionals using the system are crucial for successful implementation.

15. What are some benefits of using the FHIR standard for exchanging healthcare data, particularly when it comes to capturing patient-generated data through the QuestionnaireResponse resource?

FHIR’s standardized approach streamlines data exchange, making it easier for different systems to understand and interpret patient-generated data. This leads to improved care coordination, more informed clinical decisions, and enhanced patient engagement. The modular and extensible nature of FHIR allows for gradual implementation and integration, reducing complexity and promoting scalability.

16. What is the difference between the FHIR Questionnaire and QuestionnaireResponse resources? How do they relate to each other?

The FHIR Questionnaire resource defines the structure of a questionnaire, including its questions and groups. It acts as a template. On the other hand, the FHIR QuestionnaireResponse resource captures the actual responses to the questions in a specific questionnaire. The two resources are linked through the “questionnaire” reference in the QuestionnaireResponse, indicating which questionnaire the responses pertain to.

17. How can the FHIR QuestionnaireResponse resource be utilized to gather patient-reported outcome data in clinical trials or research studies?

In clinical trials or research studies, the FHIR QuestionnaireResponse resource can be used to collect patient-reported outcome measures, such as symptom severity or quality of life assessments. Researchers design a questionnaire (Questionnaire resource), and participants’ responses to it are stored as QuestionnaireResponse resources. These responses offer valuable insights into treatment effectiveness and patient experiences.

18. In what ways does the FHIR QuestionnaireResponse resource align with the principles of data privacy and security in healthcare?

The FHIR QuestionnaireResponse resource supports data privacy and security by providing a structured and standardized method for exchanging patient-generated data. It allows for controlled sharing of information within the healthcare ecosystem, adhering to consent and authorization rules. Additionally, FHIR’s security features, like authentication and encryption, safeguard patient data during transmission.

19. Explain the significance of the “valueReference” field in the FHIR QuestionnaireResponse resource. When might it be used?

The “valueReference” field within the “answer” element enables referencing other resources within the FHIR ecosystem. This is useful when the response involves linking to a specific resource like a medication, condition, or another patient. For instance, if a patient indicates their current medication, the “valueReference” field can link to the corresponding Medication resource.


In the dynamic landscape of healthcare, the FHIR QuestionnaireResponse resource has emerged as a cornerstone of data exchange, enabling the seamless flow of patient-generated information and clinical assessments. By providing a standardized structure to capture responses to questionnaires and surveys, FHIR QuestionnaireResponse facilitates interoperability across diverse healthcare systems, enhancing care coordination, informed decision-making, and patient engagement. This resource empowers healthcare providers, researchers, and patients alike to gather and share valuable insights while maintaining data accuracy and security.

The FHIR QuestionnaireResponse resource’s versatility in accommodating various types of questions and answer formats underscores its relevance in modern healthcare scenarios. Whether it’s tracking patient symptoms, assessing treatment outcomes, or facilitating remote monitoring, this resource plays a pivotal role in the efficient collection and utilization of data. As the healthcare ecosystem continues to evolve, FHIR QuestionnaireResponse stands as a pivotal tool that not only streamlines data exchange but also contributes to improved patient outcomes and a more comprehensive understanding of individual health journeys.

I hope you find this post helpful. Cheers!!!

[Further Readings: FHIR Questionnaire Resource |  FHIR PlanDefinition Resource |  FHIR Task Resource | FHIR RegulatedAuthorization Resource |  FHIR ManufacturedItemDefinition Resource |  FHIR AdministrableProductDefinition Resource |  FHIR PackagedProductDefinition Resource |  FHIR ClinicalUseDefinition Resource |  FHIR Ingredient Resource |  FHIR MedicinalProductDefinition Resource  | FHIR ExplanationOfBenefit Resource | FHIR PaymentReconciliation Resource |  FHIR PaymentNotice Resource | FHIR ClaimResponse Resource | FHIR Claim Resource |  FHIR EnrollmentResponse Resource | FHIR EnrollmentRequest Resource | FHIR CoverageEligibilityResponse Resource | FHIR CoverageEligibilityRequest Resource |  FHIR Contract Resource | Dependency Injection in WPF ]

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