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Keeping Momentum with EHR API Integration

Written by Rich Murphy, Director, Interoperability Solutions, Iatric Systems

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When discussing Meaningful Use with CIOs, I’ve received some comments that they pursued specific measures to meet the requirement, but they believe they’re not taking full advantage of the measure in their real-world, day-to-day workflow. 

With Meaningful Use Stage 3/Promoting Interoperability, the Patient Electronic Access measure introduced the requirement that patients must be able to access specific data via an application programming interface (API) provided by the Certified Electronic Health Record Technology (CEHRT)

The measure allows patients to use any application of their choice to access this information as long as the application meets the technical requirements of the API.

These APIs are blocks of programming created by the hospital EHR software vendor to return specific data when requested. Each API includes documented specifications detailing the correct process for outside applications to interact with the API.

When we look at the APIs for the Patient Electronic Access measure, these will respond to requests such as “provide me with a specific patient’s allergies/vitals/immunizations/medications/problem list.” 

With APIs we have an opportunity to efficiently connect an almost unlimited number of 3rd party applications (ex: an app on a smart phone) with real-time patient data from a hospital EHR system. Among other things, this information can be used to:

  • Assist caregivers with providing the most accurate and timely patient care possible
  • Provide patients with real-time access to their individual health information
  • Provide information to artificial intelligence (AI) and analytics platforms

I’m still seeing hospitals struggling with Meaningful Use/Promoting Interoperability attestation and quite a few are not ready to explore the full possibilities of EHR APIs just yet. We need to keep the momentum with healthcare APIs moving forward if we are going to see APIs live up to their full potential.

The recent blog post on the HIMSS Electronic Health Record Association (EHRA) blog, shared the EHR perspective of the API landscape. What I found interesting was that EHRs are still using several different methods to implement the rules promoting interoperability, so it’s important for hospitals to know how their EHR vendors are doing this, so they can plan accordingly.

Similar to other industries, healthcare evolves and responds to user needs. Hospitals should continue pressing EHR vendors to provide access to new APIs to grow each EHR vendor’s API inventory.

Hospitals should also continue listening to their staff to understand what specific patient information will be most beneficial and then push their EHR vendors on those specific items. These have a larger impact than just the specific requirements defined for Meaningful Use/Promoting Interoperability.

Consider these points when discussing APIs with your hospital EHR vendor:

  1. APIs lend themselves to fast data exchange. What specific relevant patient data do your caregivers need at the point of care that is currently lacking?
  2. Patient engagement. What new data should be added to increase patient electronic health engagement?
  3. Poll your clinicians. Your clinicians probably have a top priority list of the data items that they would like to get via API from the EHR vendor.

If you find that you are not getting answers from your EHR vendor or your specific request is not on their roadmap, there are other ways to get the required patient data in your clinicians’ workflow. We’ve helped lots of hospitals with this workflow integration using our FlexButtonTM clinical workflow integration solution.

If you would like to see an example of this in action, we are hosting a live webinar on July 9th "Optimize Your EHR, and Get Your Clinicians the Patient Data They Need. Registration is now open.

For more details about API education, you can check out this link on healtit.gov.

Topics: Interoperability, EHR integration, integration, workflow integration

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