Katya Samardina

Fueling the Journey towards APIs for Interoperability

With the hype and rapidly rising expectations around APIs and HL7 FHIR, it’s tempting to carve them off into a sterile and self-contained bubble of market-facing product perfection.

It’s tempting to just try and research, analyze, and speculate on what the developers “out there” in the market might want, focusing on the aspects that are highly visible, even if ultimately less important.

Instead, our organization has chosen to become the first customers of its APIs so that we can come to intimately understand what you need in order to solve real-life problems. We’re “eating our own dog food,” as they say.

We are keenly conscious of the challenges that many of you face, because we face many of the same challenges ourselves—the rapid pace of change, the proliferation of data sources, the need to break down data silos, and having to do more with less for better outcomes. So when we promote APIs and FHIR as ways to meet these challenges, we are doing so because we’ve embraced these for ourselves, and therefore know through experience how effective they can be.

Through building mobile and other front-end products that consume data via APIs, we’re discovering what types of data are most frequently used in which situations, and therefore require different types of access optimization; the types of complex queries that different use cases call for; the combinations of authentication and authorization mechanisms that might be required; how privacy and consent comes into play at the API level; the API documentation and FAQs developers need to understand how to use the APIs; the various quirks of the evolving FHIR standard—the list goes on. By using these APIs in real-life software development, we have accelerated essential learnings that no amount of desktop research could’ve given us.  

Most recently, several of our early adopters managed to build working prototypes against our APIs in a matter of weeks. This was a great result that proved to us how APIs can vastly lower the cost of integrations. This will encourage more developers to build innovative solutions more easily and quickly than ever before, that unlock the power of healthcare data to improve patient outcomes.

This is a journey that the collective healthcare industry needs to embark on with urgency. There will be frustrations, and there will be setbacks. But the more we, and others, use these APIs, the better they will get. We are committed to creating API-driven solutions, and in turn are offering these same, tried-and-true APIs to others so that they too can create innovative solutions that benefit clinicians and patients. APIs will play a huge part in solving the interoperability challenges in healthcare today.

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