The Move Toward API-Based Development and Integration
Brian Murphy, an industry analyst for Chilmark Research, recently anatomized open application programming interfaces (APIs) in the healthcare sector for a 32-page research report titled, “APIs for a Healthcare App Economy: Paths to Market Success.”
In the piece, Murphy articulated a number of views on:
- API opportunities and challenges in healthcare. Murphy stated that HCOs “are actively exploring process changes that can drive better care coordination, higher quality, and healthier patients.” Additionally, major stakeholders believe that open APIs create endless opportunities for a strong application economy seen in other industries such as travel, wellness, and finance. Design and data integration may offer additional value for users and create a competitive environment among developers. Challenges range from data interoperability to security complexities, wrote Murphy, and while they support HIPAA compliance, open APIs can also “enhance a digital portfolio with an ecosystem of third-party applications and services.”
- Segmented beliefs and attitudes. Murphy discussed how healthcare segments—from large HCOs to device manufacturers—have different outlooks regarding open APIs, and how providers and other users “can’t understand why the revolution in consumer application and in other industries is not happening in healthcare.” Many ACOs believe API-based development and advanced analytics will enhance the expertise of individual clinicians as well as team-based medical care, suggested Murphy. However, the priority of open APIs ranks differently for large HCOs versus small HCOs, and for payers versus HIT vendors, and that’s hindering industry-wide adoption.
- Data integration and segmentation. Murphy reported that—despite this growing desire for data, in terms of type and quantity—a number of “comments deal with this tension between the appetite for data, on the one hand, and the large volume of useless data, on the other.” He noted that “this commonly expressed idea—that there is both too much and not enough data—points to the lack of useful data.” In regard to data interoperability, “most healthcare professionals believe that EHR data is and will be the most valuable data resource for clinicians, patients, and other users.”
- FHIR alone is not quite king. Many vendors like Rhapsody, suggested Murphy, are actively supporting and investing in FHIR to allow the exchange of information between healthcare systems. However, “HCOs will not generate comparable usage and will take longer to evolve their APIs to make them market responsive. This fair point indirectly supports the idea that HIT should push forward with FHIR-based APIs. Every vendor could benefit from the collective use of FHIR APIs across the industry.” Murphy goes on to add that FHIR was over-hyped as of late 2016, but that it had “been endorsed by the largest EHR vendors, and many large health systems talk and act as if it will be a reality. But we believe that FHIR, as currently conceived, is too narrowly focused.”