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APIs, Modern Infrastructure Fuel Health IT Interoperability

Health IT Interoperability depends on advanced infrastructure technology such as APIs to ensure data is exchanged correctly.

Health IT interoperability needs advanced APIs and infrastructure technology

Source: Thinkstock

By Elizabeth O'Dowd

- Healthcare organizations are making efforts to digitize their IT infrastructures but often struggle to maintain health IT interoperability among digital healthcare systems.

The continued difficulty for seamless interoperability has driven the health IT systems interoperability market to grow at a predicted 7 percent CAGR through 2024, according to a recent report by Research and Markets.

The growth of the health IT interoperability market is driven by organizations needing to cut back on health IT spending to adhere to value-based care incentives.

“With growing maturity and awareness among the patients, it has become imperative for healthcare providers to ensure continuity of care and seamless exchange of healthcare information between various stakeholders in the healthcare industry,” report authors stated.

Interoperability has emerged as a necessity for health IT systems as meaningful use and EHRs have become major parts of health IT infrastructure. However, legacy and disparate tools can hinder interoperability progress for many organizations struggling to upgrade their health IT infrastructure.

The interoperability need is expected to sustain market growth through the next several years.

However, there are several factors that may hinder health IT interoperability, according to the report. The cost and complexity of deployment may slow organizations with tight budgets from implanting an effective solution.

“Despite constant efforts towards the development of effective healthcare applications, the market is yet to witness a robust framework for the exchange and use of the medical information,” said report authors.

One of the major trends the report found was the increasing digitization of health IT infrastructure is driving the demand for interoperability. Organizations are upgrading infrastructure systems and not all of them are compatible with one another. The more programs and applications healthcare organizations build and deploy, the more important interoperability with the organization becomes.

Each application does not need its own data set for operation. Organizations can share patient data among applications so the data remains consistent throughout by employing application programming interfaces (APIs). Patient data entered into an EHR can be used in other programs and applications, such as analytics tools.

The report also emphasized the importance of interoperability in relation to the rise in research and development. Newly innovative healthcare applications can utilize medical information collected from health IT systems.

Lack of interoperability and API standardization can make it difficult for organizations to effectively share EHR data and other healthcare application data for analytics or research purposes. Data integration for interoperability is one of the biggest challenges facing APIs and interoperability.

However, several institutions are developing standardized tools that will merge patient data from a variety of sources using HL7’s FHIR to create an industry standard of interoperability.

The Regenstrief Institute is one of several organizations that aims to leverage the FHIR standard and API technology to assemble health information from different EHR systems.

The Institute deployed a use case between an Epic EHR using the open.epic API and the Indiana Network for Patient Care (INPC) using a previous version of FHIR.

The Argonaut Project is another organization with close ties to FHIR. The group is working to develop a FHIR-based API and Core Data Services to expand the sharing of electronic health information.

Both of these projects intend to develop standard interoperability tools healthcare organizations can use to accurately and effectively exchange data. API standardization will allow organizations to exchange data with other outside entities if they are collaborating on a research project or if a patient switches care providers.

Interoperability is vastly important to healthcare organizations because it allows them to exchange information for convenience, research, and development. It also gives patients more confidence in their provider that all of their medical information is accurate so they can receive the best care possible.