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Sansoro Hopes Its Health Record API Will Unite Them All

Posted on June 20, 2016 I Written By

Andy Oram is an editor at O'Reilly Media, a highly respected book publisher and technology information provider. An employee of the company since 1992, Andy currently specializes in open source, software engineering, and health IT, but his editorial output has ranged from a legal guide covering intellectual property to a graphic novel about teenage hackers. His articles have appeared often on EMR & EHR and other blogs in the health IT space. Andy also writes often for O'Reilly's Radar site (http://oreilly.com/) and other publications on policy issues related to the Internet and on trends affecting technical innovation and its effects on society. Print publications where his work has appeared include The Economist, Communications of the ACM, Copyright World, the Journal of Information Technology & Politics, Vanguardia Dossier, and Internet Law and Business. Conferences where he has presented talks include O'Reilly's Open Source Convention, FISL (Brazil), FOSDEM, and DebConf.

After some seven years of watching the US government push interoperability among health records, and hearing how far we are from achieving it, I assumed that fundamental divergences among electronic health records at different sites posed problems of staggering complexity. I pricked up my ears, therefore, when John Orosco, CTO of Sansoro Health, said that they could get EHRs to expose real-time web services in a few hours, or at most a couple days.

What does Sansoro do? Its goal, like the FHIR standard, is to give health care providers and third-party developers a single go-to API where they can run their apps on any supported EHR. Done right, this service cuts down development costs and saves the developers from having to distribute a different version of their app for different customers. Note that the SMART project tries to achieve a similar goal by providing an API layer on top of EHRs for producing user interfaces, whereas Sansoro offers an API at a lower level on particular data items, like FHIR.

Sansoro was formed in the summer of 2014. Researching EHRs, its founders recognized that even though the vendors differed in many superficial ways (including the purportedly standard CCDs they create), all EHRs dealt at bottom with the same fields. Diagnoses, lab orders, allergies, medications, etc. are the same throughout the industry, so familiar items turn up under the varying semantics.

FHIR was just starting at that time, and is still maturing. Therefore, while planning to support FHIR as it becomes ready, Sansoro designed their own data model and API to meet industry’s needs right now. They are gradually adding FHIR interfaces that they consider mature to their Emissary application.

Sansoro aimed first at the acute care market, and is expanding to support ambulatory EHR platforms. At the beginning, based on market share, Sansoro chose to focus on the Cerner and Epic EHRs, both of which offer limited web services modules to their customers. Then, listening to customer needs, Sansoro added MEDITECH and Allscripts; it will continue to follow customer priorities.

Although Orosco acknowledged that EHR vendors are already moving toward interoperability, their services are currently limited and focus on their own platforms. For various reasons, they may implement the FHIR specification differently. (Health IT experts hope that Argonaut project will ensure semantic interoperability for at least the most common FHIR items.) Sansoro, in contrast can expose any field in the EHR using its APIs, thus serving the health care community’s immediate needs in an EHR-agnostic manner. Emissary may prevent the field from ending up again the way the CCD has fared, where each vendor can implement a different API and claim to be compliant.

This kind of fragmented interface is a constant risk in markets in which proprietary companies are rapidly entering an competing. There is also a risk, therefore, that many competitors will enter the API market as Sansoro has done, reproducing the minor and annoying differences between EHR vendors at a higher level.

But Orosco reminded me that Google, Facebook, and Microsoft all have competing APIs for messaging, identity management, and other services. The benefits of competition, even when people have to use different interfaces, drives a field forward, and the same can happen in healthcare. Two directions face us: to allow rapid entry of multiple vendors and learn from experience, or to spend a long time trying to develop a robust standard in an open manner for all to use. Luckily, given Sansoro and FHIR, we have both options.

Mobile PHRs On The Way — Slowly

Posted on October 24, 2013 I Written By

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

On-demand mobile PHRs are likely to emerge over time, but not until the healthcare industry does something to mend its interoperability problems, according to a new report from research firm Frost & Sullivan.

As the paper notes, mobile application development is moving at a brisk clip, driven by consumer and governmental demands for better quality care, lower healthcare costs and improved access to information.

The problem is, it’s hard to create mobile products — especially a mobile PHR — when the various sectors of the healthcare industry don’t share data effectively.  According to Frost  & Sullivan, it will be necessary to connect up providers, hospitals, physician specialty groups, imaging centers, laboratories, payers and government entities, each of which have operated within their own informational silos and deployed their own unique infrastructures.

The healthcare industry will also need to resolve still-undecided questions as to who owns patient information, Frost & Sullivan suggests.  As things stand, “the patient does not own his or her health information, as this data is stored within the IT  protocols of the EHR system,  proprietary to providers, hospitals and health systems,” said Frost & Sullivan Connected Health Senior Industry Analyst Patrick Riley in a press statement.

While patient ownership of medical data sounds like a problem worth addressing, the industry hasn’t shown the will to address it.  To date, efforts to address the issue of who owns digital files has been met with a “tepid” response, the release notes.

However, it’s clear that outside vendors can solve the problem if they see a need. For example, consider the recent deal in which Allscripts agreed to supply clinical data to health plans.  Allscripts plans to funnel data from participating users of its ambulatory EMR to vendor Inovalon, which aggregates claims, lab, pharmacy, durable medical equipment, functional status and patient demographics for payers. Providers are getting patient-level analyses of the data in return for their participation.

Deals like this one suggest that rather than wait for interoperability, bringing together the data for a robust mobile PHR should be done by a third  party. Which party, what it will it cost to work with them and how the data collection would work are the least of the big problems that would have to be solved — but might be that or nothing for the foreseeable future.

Great Response to Blumenthal Interview

Posted on February 1, 2011 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

The other day I came across an interview with David Blumenthal. I didn’t find anything all that meaningful in the interview itself. However, in the comments, someone provided some really interesting commentary on what Blumenthal said in the interview.

Dr. Blumenthal says we need operability before we move to interoperability. Yet if you don’t design your systems from the start to interoperate, you’ll inevitably wind up with operable systems that do not interoperate – at all. Having accomplished this, we’ll then have to develop and impose an after-the-fact standard to which all systems must comply. This will mean redesign, retrofit, and plastering all kinds of middleware layers between disparate systems. It may even result in retraining tomorrow all those providers you hope will learn new ways of working today.

Dr. Blumenthal also says that new and better technology is coming out every day. Yet the current incentive and certification programs heavily favor the older technology which he himself says frightens many providers away from this migration. Many of the older vendors have huge installed bases and old technology. They no doubt influence advisory boards much to lean towards what is versus what might be, all assurances to the contrary.

The cost of fixing practically anything is much higher than doing it correctly the first time. I realize you can’t design perfection, and anything we build will need adaptation and improvement. But we’re following a path that ensures that we will have to do much more fixing than we would if we’d just stop and think a bit more.

The inevitability of this evolution is not a justifcation for doing it carelessly.

Talk about bringing up some valid issues. The second one really hits me that the incentive money favors older technology. I’m afraid this is very much the case and that 5 years from now the major topic we’re covering on EMR and HIPAA is switching EMRs.