FHIR search examples

Below are some examples of Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR®) search API calls featuring various search parameters, modifiers, chained and reverse chained searches, composite searches, POST search requests, and more. For a general introduction to FHIR search concepts, see Overview of FHIR Search.

Search result parameters


_include lets you search for resource instances and include in the results other resources referenced by the target resource instances. For example, you can use _include to query for MedicationRequest resources and limit the search to prescriptions for a specific patient. The FHIR service would then return the MedicationRequest resources as well as the referenced Patient resource. In the example below, the request will pull all MedicationRequest resource instances in the database and all patients that are referenced by the MedicationRequest instances:

 GET {{FHIR_URL}}/MedicationRequest?_include=MedicationRequest:patient


The FHIR service in Azure Health Data Services limits searches with _include and _revinclude to return a maximum of 100 items.


_revinclude allows you to search for resource instances and include in the results other resources that reference the target resource instances. For example, you can search for patients and then reverse include all encounters that reference the patients:

GET {{FHIR_URL}}/Patient?_revinclude=Encounter:subject


_elements narrows the information in the search results to a subset of the elements defined for a resource type. The _elements parameter accepts a comma-separated list of base elements:

GET {{FHIR_URL}}/Patient?_elements=identifier,active

In the above request, you'll receive a bundle of patients, but each entry will only include the identifier(s) and the patient's active status. The entries in the response will contain a meta.tag value of SUBSETTED to indicate that not all elements defined for the resource are included.

Search modifiers


:not allows you to find resources with an element that does not have a given value. For example, you could search for patients who are not female:

GET {{FHIR_URL}}/Patient?gender:not=female

In return, you would get all Patient resources whose gender element value is not female, including any patients with no gender value specified. This is different from searching for Patient resources with the male gender value since that would ignore patients with no specified gender.


:missing returns all resources that don't have a value for the specified element when :missing=true. Additionally, :missing returns all resources that contain the specified element when :missing=false. For simple data type elements, :missing=true will match on all resources where an element is present but has an empty value. For example, if you want to find all Patient resources that are missing information on birthdate, you can call:

GET {{FHIR_URL}}/Patient?birthdate:missing=true


:exact is used to search for elements with string data types and returns positive if the parameter value precisely matches the case and full character sequence of the element value.

GET {{FHIR_URL}}/Patient?name:exact=Jon

This request returns Patient resources that have the given or family name of Jon. If there were patients with names such as Jonathan or JON, the search would ignore those resources as their names do not match the specified value exactly.


:contains is used to query for string type elements and allows for matches with the specified value anywhere within the field. contains is case insensitive and recognizes matching strings concatenated with other characters. For example:

GET {{FHIR_URL}}/Patient?address:contains=Meadow

This request would return all Patient resources with address element fields that contain the string "Meadow" (case insensitive). This means you could have addresses with values such as "Meadows Lane", "Pinemeadow Place", or "Meadowlark St" that return positive matches.

To perform search operations that cover elements contained within a referenced resource, you can "chain" a series of parameters together with .. For example, if you want to view all DiagnosticReport resources with a subject reference to a patient specified by name:

 GET {{FHIR_URL}}/DiagnosticReport?subject:Patient.name=Sarah

This request would return all DiagnosticReport resources with a patient subject named "Sarah". The . points the chained search to the name element within the referenced Patient resource.

Another common use of FHIR search is finding all encounters for a specific patient. To do a regular (non-chained) search for Encounter resources that reference a Patient with a given id:

GET {{FHIR_URL}}/Encounter?subject=Patient/78a14cbe-8968-49fd-a231-d43e6619399f

Using chained search, you can find all Encounter resources that reference patients whose details match a search parameter. The example below demonstrates how to search for encounters referencing patients narrowed by birthdate:

GET {{FHIR_URL}}/Encounter?subject:Patient.birthdate=1987-02-20

This would return all Encounter instances that reference patients with the specified birthdate value.

In addition, you can initiate multiple chained searches by using the & operator, which allows searching against multiple references in one request. In such cases with &, chained search "independently" scans for each element value:

GET {{FHIR_URL}}/Patient?general-practitioner:Practitioner.name=Sarah&general-practitioner:Practitioner.address-state=WA

This would return all Patient resources that have a reference to "Sarah" as a generalPractitioner plus a reference to a generalPractitioner that has an address in the state of Washington. In other words, if a patient had a generalPractitioner named Sarah from New York state and another generalPractitioner named Bill from Washington state, this would meet the conditions for a positive match when doing this search.

For scenarios in which the search requires a logical AND condition that strictly checks for paired element values, refer to the composite search examples below.

Using reverse chained search in FHIR allows you to search for target resource instances referenced by other resources. In other words, you can search for resources based on the properties of resources that refer to them. This is accomplished with the _has parameter. For example, the Observation resource has a search parameter patient that checks for a reference to a Patient resource. To find all Patient resources that are referenced by an Observation with a specific code:

GET {{FHIR_URL}}/Patient?_has:Observation:patient:code=527

This request returns Patient resources that are referenced by Observation resources with the code 527.

In addition, reverse chained search can have a recursive structure. For example, if you want to search for all patients referenced by an Observation where the observation is referenced by an AuditEvent from a specific practitioner named janedoe:

GET {{FHIR_URL}}/Patient?_has:Observation:patient:_has:AuditEvent:entity:agent:Practitioner.name=janedoe

To search for resources that contain elements grouped together as logically connected pairs, FHIR defines composite search, which joins single parameter values together with the $ operator – forming a connected pair of parameters. In a composite search, a positive match occurs when the intersection of element values satisfies all conditions set in the paired search parameters. For example, if you want to find all DiagnosticReport resources that contain a potassium value less than 9.2:

GET {{FHIR_URL}}/DiagnosticReport?result.code-value-quantity=2823-3$lt9.2

The paired elements in this case would be the code element (from an Observation resource referenced as the result) and the value element connected with the code. Following the code with the $ operator sets the value condition as lt (for "less than") 9.2 (for the potassium mmol/L value).

Composite search parameters can also be used to filter multiple component code value quantities with a logical OR. For example, to query for observations with diastolic blood pressure greater than 90 OR systolic blood pressure greater than 140:

GET {{FHIR_URL}}/Observation?component-code-value-quantity=http://loinc.org|8462-4$gt90,http://loinc.org|8480-6$gt140

Note how , functions as the logical OR operator between the two conditions.

View the next entry set

The maximum number of resources that can be returned at once from a search query is 1000. However, you might have more than 1000 resource instances that match the search query and you want to retrieve the next set of results after the first 1000 entries. In such a case, you would use the continuation (i.e. "next") token url value in the searchset bundle returned from the search:

    "resourceType": "Bundle",
    "id": "98731cb7-3a39-46f3-8a72-afe945741bd9",
    "meta": {
        "lastUpdated": "2021-04-22T09:58:16.7823171+00:00"
    "type": "searchset",
    "link": [
            "relation": "next",
            "url": "{{FHIR_URL}}/Patient?_sort=_lastUpdated&ct=WzUxMDAxNzc1NzgzODc5MjAwODBd"
            "relation": "self",
            "url": "{{FHIR_URL}}/Patient?_sort=_lastUpdated"

You would make a GET request for the provided URL:

GET {{FHIR_URL}}/Patient?_sort=_lastUpdated&ct=WzUxMDAxNzc1NzgzODc5MjAwODBd

This would return the next set of entries for your search results. The searchset bundle is the complete set of search result entries, and the continuation token url is the link provided by the FHIR service to retrieve the entries that don't fit in the first subset (due to the restriction on the maximum number of entries returned for one page).

Search using POST

All of the search examples mentioned above use GET requests. However, you can also make FHIR search API calls using POST with the _search parameter:

POST {{FHIR_URL}}/Patient/_search?_id=45

This request would return the Patient resource instance with the given id value. Just as with GET requests, the server determines which resource instances satisfy the condition(s) and returns a bundle in the HTTP response.

Another feature of searching with POST is that it lets you submit the query parameters as a form body:

POST {{FHIR_URL}}/Patient/_search
content-type: application/x-www-form-urlencoded


Next steps

In this article, you learned about searching in FHIR using search parameters, modifiers, and other methods. For more information about FHIR search, see

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