Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) are reshaping how healthcare applications communicate and share data.
Whenever we go to a doctor or other healthcare provider, a record of the visit is generated. Traditionally, these visitation records have been paper-based. However, technological developments and the advent of digitization have driven an industry-wide shift toward electronic health records (EHRs).
Though meant to simplify matters, technology brings its own set of complications. EHRs tend to be scattered across the different applications used by the various providers we visit. If these applications are unable to interface — or share information back and forth — patients face difficulty gathering their full medical record and doctors struggle to access these records during patient visits.
The good news is that Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) are going a long way toward resolving this problem.
What Are APIs?
APIs are software intermediaries that allow two applications to exchange information, and they’re responsible for the functionality of the things we do online each day. For instance, every time we send instant messages, search for flights online, or check the weather on our phones, we’re using an API.
It’s easier than you might imagine to understand how APIs work in practice. Whenever you use an application on your phone or computer, the app sends a request for data to a server. The server retrieves the information you’ve requested from a database, interprets it, and then sends it back to your application, which will display the information you requested in a way that’s comprehensible. In short, the API is the code that manages and facilitates how information is sent to and from servers.
Another way to think about it: if you’re at a restaurant, it’s your server who performs the same function as an API, relaying your order to the kitchen and food from the kitchen to you.
Why APIs Are Important to the Healthcare Field
More and more healthcare organizations are using APIs to help manage the flow of patient data between disparate systems and applications.
Given the priority that healthcare providers are placing on patient-centric care, the increased interoperability between EHRs, apps, and other repositories of information that APIs deliver offers numerous benefits for everyone involved. For instance, this interoperability allows patients to have easy access to their data, which in turn allows them to better understand their own health. Not only that, but APIs can help ensure that if a patient is prescribed medication in the emergency room, the record of the dosage will be accessible to other departments within the same hospital, as well as to the patient’s primary care provider.
On the provider side, APIs make it easier to leverage empirical evidence and trends in patient data to support clinical decision-making. They also build in a layer of security by ensuring that EHRs remain protected from malware and cyberattacks, and that they are only accessible to the proper users (both internal and external).
The API Adoption Boom
It’s not just private healthcare organizations that are turning to APIs as a solution to data interoperability problems — government agencies are, as well. The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services recently rolled out Blue Button 2.0, a data service that allows patients to easily share their claim information with a vetted list of apps, research programs, and services. Blue Button 2.0 is part of a broader effort by the White House to enhance interoperability in the American healthcare system.
The trend toward API adoption across the healthcare industry is creating a need for IT services that support app integration and interoperability for private companies, government agencies, and individuals alike. Epiphany Management Group is proud to be a HIPAA-compliant remote support company that specializes in rollouts for medical and biomedical projects, and we’re ready to step in wherever needed, 24/7. Contact us today to learn how we can help you implement your digital initiatives and provide you with ongoing support once they’re in place.