- eClinicalWorks announced its approval to integrate with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Blue Button 2.0 application programming interface (API).
The Blue Button 2.0 API will help eClinicalWorks users obtain certain patient information including type of Medicare coverage, prescriptions, and primary care treatment. Patients also have control over how their health data is used authorized by MyMedicare.gov. Blue Button 2.0 also uses the HL7 Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) standard for patient data.
“eClinicalWorks has developed strong partnerships and continued collaborations with its customers and industry vendors with the main goal of further enhancing access to health data,” said Girish Navani, CEO and Cofounder of eClinicalWorks. “Integrating with CMS Blue Button 2.0 API demonstrates our commitment to supporting Consumer-Directed Exchange to help Medicare beneficiaries and providers streamline patient data and improve health outcomes.”
Collaborating with other organizations and embracing standardized APIs is one way EHR vendors can help solve interoperability issues.
An API is an interface that allows unrelated software programs to communicate with one another. They act as bridges between two applications, allowing data to flow regardless of how each application was originally designed.
For applications that function by pulling a constant stream of data from one or more sources, an API is especially important to decrease development time, save storage space on endpoint devices, and overcome any differences in the standards or programming languages used to create the data that lives at either end of the bridge.
Standardized APIs for EHRs can help their client organizations exchange data more easily within and outside the organization.
APIs are often considered the missing piece of health IT infrastructure.
“If you think about data sharing as a public utility, like water or electricity, the healthcare industry looks like a street,” Redox Senior Developer Nick Hatt explained to HITInfrastructure.com. “Each house is a different health system.”
“In the utility world, you need to have that last mile of electricity or plumbing coming to your house,” he continued. “In healthcare that just doesn't exist for sharing data. Even identifying where you would go to use an API for one of those health systems is impossible without getting into a whole long IT implementation process.”
One way health IT companies and provider organizations are adopting standards is through open source API research and collaboration.
ONC is continuing to work with stakeholders and federal agencies to address the shortcomings of interoperability by inserting APIs for clinicians and patients to access data, as well as creating a trusted framework, according to National Coordinator Don Rucker MD in a recent ONC blog.
“Our primary focus is to accelerate individuals’ ability to access and send their health information via their smartphones or other electronic devices, so they can shop for and coordinate care,” said Rucker. “This is an important piece of delivering value throughout our health care system: As Secretary Azar has said, ‘To bring down costs and increase quality, we have to put patients in charge of their own data.’”
In order for APIs to be truly successful for interoperability, they need to be “standardized, transparent, and pro-competitive,” says Rucker. This calls for open APIs.
Open APIs have encouraged competition, which has allowed many industries to develop more advanced APIs faster.
By making API source code accessible in healthcare, developers from different organizations can collaborate by working with the same source code, and resharing their version of the API back with the community.
“The modern internet app economy thrives on an open API software environment,” Rucker explained. “Part of the healthcare API evolution is incorporating many of the current protocols from leading standards development organizations with the newer FHIR web developer-friendly way of representing clinical data.”
“Currently, we work off a narrow worldview of interoperability where the task is to move one patient’s medical record from one doctor or hospital to another,” he continued. “Central to a value-based health system is expanding the ability to find and move data for more than one patient at a time. Modern networks should offer a vastly richer set of data movements and activities.”
Large health IT vendors like eClinicalWorks adopting standardized APIs helps more the healthcare industry towards better interoperability.