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Healthcare API Management Supports Applications Innovation

Managing healthcare APIs is key for organization embracing open source options for innovative app development.

healthcare API

Source: Thinkstock

By Elizabeth O'Dowd

- Healthcare organizations deal with several application programming interfaces (APIs) when it comes to building apps and sharing data. Organizations going through digital transformations need to manage their healthcare APIs to create applications that function to the best of their ability.

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.  

Gartner states that API management is about, “the planning, design, implementation, testing, publication, operation, consumption, maintenance, versioning and retirement of APIs. It involves use of a developers' portal to target, market to and govern communities of developers who embed the APIs, as well as runtime management, estimation of API value and analytics.”

APIs have become enablers of digital transformation because they give organizations a way to open up business channels and allow co-creation within an organization and among other organizations, according to Gartner.

As organizations adopt more APIs to build more platforms and applications, organizations need to focus on how they will manage these tools.

“In the past, APIs were primarily developed and consumed within a single organization, often the same development group. Shared understanding of the domain and the functionality ensured that APIs met the needs of their consumers,” Garner analysts explained. “Today, though, the advent of the API economy means that organizations are using APIs to open up new business channels, new partner integrations and even new markets.”

“Consequently, the consumers of an API are now often outside the organization offering it,” analysts continued. “This highlights the need for both the endpoint protection and the developer support offered by full life cycle API management.”

Managing APIs also allows organizations to understand which APIs are needed for which tasks. There are thousands of APIs available but only certain ones are right for particular tasks. In healthcare, that margin is even narrower because of security and compliance.

As the need for tighter API security grows, managing APIs becomes more important than ever. More security and identity management features will need to emerge and as more projects requiring APIs are introduced.

“We recommend that organizations that run API programs consider offerings with the potential to address their needs well beyond the first project or two,” advised Gartner. “They will find it much easier, quicker and less expensive to acquire an API management platform with more functionality than they currently need than to extend or replace it as new requirements arise.”

The healthcare industry is currently embracing APIs to help solve interoperability issues. Several open source API projects such as FHIR and HL7 are working toward building a standardized API to make data exchange among healthcare organizations smoother.

However, organizations working with these APIs need to be able to manage these solutions, especially as developers and organizations continue to create new source code. APIs need to be managed and organized for developers to create successful new ideas.

“Innovation is out there, but in order to get fresh ideas, you need to publish the right APIs and aim to create new business value, which is ultimately what digital business is about,” said Gartner. “One of the most far-ranging and fascinating rules of API programs is that once the API has been published, developers will use it for things you never imagined. This is both a blessing, because it will attract fresh innovation, and a curse, because you must protect yourself from malicious usage of the API.”

Managing APIs is key to fast and successful innovation as organizations continues to expand and build more applications. Healthcare organizations looking to improve interoperability need to get their APIs organized so they can develop and support applications through their entire lifecycle.

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