Electronic Health Records

Adoption & Implementation News

Work by Providers, Payers Needed to Advance Healthcare APIs

APIs should play a key role to improving both provider health data exchange and patient access to health information across the care continuum, so why the slow uptick in healthcare API use?

API implementation

Source: Thinkstock.

By Kate Monica

- While patients have eagerly adopted technology powered by application programming interfaces (APIs) for personal use and health data generation, providers have shown great hesitance. Yet new research suggests healthcare APIs to improve provider access to health data will likely lead to more tangible benefits to patient care.

A recent report from Chilmark Research highlighted areas and activities where healthcare APIs can achieve their full potential by gauging opinions of focus groups on a variety of topics including who should lead the charge toward API technology adoption and who the ideal audience for this technology should be.

APIs provide the means for making clinical data available to both providers and patients. Healthcare organizations are constantly in the earliest phases of finding new ways to use APIs to provide coordinated care and increase the quality of patient care. Forward-thinking providers in particular acknowledge the usefulness of APIs in healthcare for implementing new care models and technologies.

Despite the many advantages of healthcare APIs, the high costs associated with API development hinders use and implementation for smaller healthcare organizations — since only large organizations have the resources to invest — yet Chilmark Research anticipates that leading healthcare institutions will produce tangible results that in turn will motivate smaller organizations to follow suit and funnel spending toward API-based health IT infrastructure.

While the industry largely agrees on the potential value of APIs, opinions vary regarding who should use APIs to ensure the technology is used to its fullest potential.

“Feelings are mixed about whether clinicians or patients (or both) should be the target user for API-enabled apps,” the report states reported. “[Focus groups] readily acknowledge that few patient-facing apps deliver value over more than the short term. They emphasize that there is great potential for apps that can result in more activated, better adhering patients.”

According to Chilmark researchers, the focus groups engaged were uncertain whether patient-facing apps would yield productive results, though they agreed patients are eager for user-friendly ways to access their information and stay involved in their personal healthcare.

“Patients will be more demanding because there’s a real benefit to them. I mean physicians, they don’t care if [data] comes via courier pigeon. As long as data is getting from point A to point B,” remarked an anonymous health information organization.

While patient-facing interfaces may have an easier time drawing a user base, focus groups suggested clinician-facing apps would likely prove more practically helpful. Patients may be interested in accumulating, viewing, and sharing their personally-generated health data, but they do not necessarily have the insight or ability to use this data in a meaningful way.

Alternatively, clinicians are less likely to want to accumulate the amount of data a patient would collect, but they have a better understanding of what data is actually useful and how to use that data productively.

“It’s making the data actionable and not just getting a flood of data. Figuring out how to put it either into my EHR or in front of my clinicians in the right way, that’s where we sit today in 2016: moving from the flood of data to actionable data,” stated an anonymous HIT data integrator.

This outlook provides a glimpse into the current view of healthcare APIs among leading minds in the industry. Providers want to move toward streamlined, useful data that will lead to insights and positive health outcomes rather than a deluge of information with little actionability.

Focus groups determined in order to ensure the most practical implementation of API technology into the health industry, clinicians must invest finances, interest, and research into prioritizing clinician-facing APIs so as to spur the market to shift toward less patient-facing APIs and more APIs tailored to a clinicians needs.

Respondents agreed large health payers and large healthcare organizations must spearhead the adoption of APIs into the healthcare industry, whether it be patient or clinician-facing technology.

The future of API technology is bright, but whether that technology yields actionable data is in the hands of providers and health payers. 

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