Healthcare has lagged behind other industries in terms of technological advancement. But that is about to change.
Many factors are driving change and the need for healthcare organisations to share information: consumers are demanding access to their own health information; burgeoning health costs are driving incentives to integrate care across different healthcare organisations; and technological advancements in web and mobile applications are opening up opportunities.
To date, healthcare organisations have struggled with interoperability; health information often ends up in silos – trapped in the EMR of a primary care physician, GP, or hospital. This means that patients have been treated episodically, receiving advice and prescriptions from medical professionals who may not have access to that patient’s complete medical record. How can individuals receive perfect healthcare if the professionals treating them only see part of the picture? Without clinical data outlining medical history, claims data to marry up medical interventions with insurance claims made, medication adherence information, genetic profile, family history, and data about social circumstance (whether they are employed or otherwise; have family support or not), it’s virtually impossible for a medical professional to be certain that they are choosing the right prevention or treatment plan for that individual. Moreover, the traditional complexity and expense of healthcare integrations have limited the number and types of applications available to healthcare providers and patients. Given these constraints, it’s virtually impossible to deliver perfect care.
The current state of interoperability
Interoperability is an opaque word. Officially defined, interoperability is the ability of different information technology systems and software applications to communicate, exchange data, and use the information that has been exchanged. Simply put, interoperability is the ability to share information across multiple technologies.
And it’s crucial in healthcare. Health information is, for the most part, trapped in siloed systems. Think about every time you visit your GP or PCP and he/she records notes into their own EMR. Where does that information go? The answer is nowhere, unless it is transcribed into a referral (usually still done on paper) and sent to a specialist. And even then it’s only partial information that is included – not the entire medical record. So what happens if you go out of state and visit a different GP or PCP, or get sent to the emergency department of your local hospital? What information is readily accessible for practitioners there to understand you, your conditions, your medical or family history?
The part APIs have to play
APIs are programming routines or protocols that allow software applications to share data, invoke business logic or perform an action (such as send a notification, map data, calculate and return a risk score, and start a workflow). They are ubiquitous in most aspects of modern day life. Large consumer brands Amazon, Twitter, Facebook and Google all have substantial APIs that enable developers to access information so they can build new applications or businesses. Facebook’s APIs allow developers to incorporate Facebook functionality into their own apps (often used for sign-on) and the YouTube API lets developers integrate YouTube videos into their websites or applications. Transport disruptor Uber has launched two key APIs to create new value for their services – UberRUSH which facilitates same-day delivery for businesses and RideRequests which facilitates the use of Uber rides through third party apps.
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