As most healthcare technology professionals do, I was attempting to keep up to date on industry happenings in my down time and ran across Becker’s article 15 criticisms on the lack of EHR interoperability from an AHA report by Max Green. It is no secret that that there is a lot of discontent with current electronic health record (EHR) systems, mainly due to limited features and overly complicated processes that take away from patient care. But what this article failed to address are the proposed solutions to the perpetual problems.
I think many of the problems physicians face with EHRs could be solved with an open API and an ecosystem of applications that can speed up the clinician workflow while maintaining the documentation quality required within the EHR.
With healthcare’s new centralized focus on interoperability, the hope for a standardized exchange of PHI across healthcare systems is greater than ever. Recent federal endeavors, such as Meaningful Use, have attempted to push vendors, organizations and providers towards a meaningful data sharing standard, but adding new tools onto a providers toolbelt is still quite the endeavor. As proposed in MU3, for EHRs to fully embrace interoperability open APIs must be enabled to support data access and collaboration. What does that mean? These buzzword terms get thrown around a lot without a lot of understanding or explanation, so let me clarify.
Open APIs Solve:
- Data Exchange: By distinctly defining security mandates and transmissions, connectivity between healthcare systems can be rectified by open APIs.
- Scalability: Open APIs allow for applications to share data with other healthcare systems creating the ability to rapidly and intensely scale. This means reducing custom APIs by EHR vendor and by hospital system.
- Foresight: Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) is on the rise and an open API strategy enables the ability to support FHIR, SMART, and other rapidly evolving platforms.
Although open APIs can aid in a lot of the interoperability obstacles with current EHR systems, there are still problems that need to be addressed, such as patient engagement, workflows (notably around consents) and integration requirements. Notably, we need to figure out how to replace the existing health system and data requirements for real-time data and security through VPNs. With so much focus currently on the problems, even more vigor needs to be geared towards the solutions.
If you found this post useful, you might also like to read Recommended FHIR API Implementation Principles.