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What a Real Open EHR API Should Accomplish

Posted on June 17, 2013 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.

There’s been a lot of talk in the EHR world about APIs and most of the time they talk about it as an open API. The problem is that there’s been a lot of talk about EHR APIs and not a lot of action. Having an open API is more than just giving a couple people access to some really small subset of your EHR. We need truly open EHR APIs that are more than just a nice press release.

A successful EHR API requires two core elements: Access to EHR Data and a User Base.

The first element is the obvious one and the one that everyone focuses on. An API needs to have access to the data in the EHR. This includes accessing that data for display in an outside application. Plus, it requires that an EHR accept data from an outside application. EHR APIs seem to fall short on both of these areas. Most only give you access to some really small portion of the EHR data. Even fewer let you write any sort of data to the EHR.

If you don’t give an outside application the ability to access the EHR data and write data to the EHR, there are very few applications you can build on top of it. Is it any wonder that the third party EHR developer community isn’t doing more things with EHR software? If they had these two things, EHR vendors would be amazed at what they’d build. I love Jonathan Bush’s idea of “every surface area” of athenahealth being available in an API. If he achieves this vision, third party developers will flock to that EHR and enhance it in ways that would have never been possible for athenahealth to do on their own.

The second piece is just as important to an API. EHR API developers need to get access to your existing EHR user base. This doesn’t mean you have to give them a list of all your clients. It does mean you need to feature the work of these third party developers to your existing user base. This can be in your application, in an email list, at your user conference, etc.

Think about the message you’re sending to your developer community and your existing user base when you do this. The developer community wants to build even more functionality into your product. Your EHR users get more value out of your EHR application thanks to the development efforts of an outside party. Plus, ambitious EHR users can even create their own functionality using the EHR API.

I can’t wait for the day that EHR vendors fully embrace the idea of a third party EHR API. There are so many outside companies that would benefit from an EHR API, but the EHR vendor will benefit just as much. Plus, the real winners will be the EHR users and patients who get the functionality they’ve been wanting from their EHR that the EHR vendor couldn’t deliver.

All I Want for Christmas…

Posted on December 24, 2012 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.

My family and I are in final preparations for Christmas. It’s an exciting time for me. I love everything about the season. I don’t stress over gift giving. I wallow in the joy of getting to spend money on someone I love. I don’t mind the crowds at the mall. I love the hustle, bustle, excitement and energy with everyone running around. Add in some Christmas music that reminds me of many wonderful Christmas’ past. It’s a wonderful time to me.

As I consider Christmas, my two favorite parts of Christmas is giving someone something they’ve always wanted and dreaming of the things that I would love to get for Christmas. So, in that vain, let’s dream about what I’d want for Christmas from an EMR and Healthcare IT perspective.

1. Open EHR Systems – I wish that every healthcare IT system would embrace truly open APIs and that the healthcare data would start flowing. I can only imagine the amazing benefits to healthcare if vendors would just embrace open exchange of healthcare data. It’s the right thing to do and can also be a tremendous business opportunity.

2. Remove Healthcare’s Perverse Incentives – It always pains me to see so many perverse incentives in healthcare. I applaud the many many doctors who do the right thing regardless of the incentive. However, we’d be in a lot better position if we had more than the good nature of doctors driving things. One simple example, can we finally reimburse a doctor for their time spent on an email or video visit on a website? In a large percentage of cases that’s more than sufficient. Yet, the current healthcare incentives “force” a doctor to have you come to the office in order to get paid. That’s perverse and sad.

3. Beautiful EHR User Interfaces – I must acknowledge that we’ve made some real progress on the EHR UI. You should have seen the UI’s we were dealing with when I started blogging 7 years ago. We’re measurably ahead of where we were then. However, with 300+ EHR companies we still have a lot of room to improve the EHR user interface. EHR is the heart of a practice and the better the UI the better the heart. We all know how important a heart is to your health.

4. More Empowered and Trusted Patients – Imagine where the patient was a full participant in their healthcare. That includes being trusted and listened to by their doctor and a patient who thoughtfully considers and listens to their doctor. This is not a one sided issue. This is something that both patients and doctors can improve. There are as many belligerent patients as their are arrogant doctors. We need a good dose of humility, care and trust re infused into healthcare. I think they only way we’ll get there is for the lines of communication to open up on an unprecedented level.

Those are a few of my Christmas wishes. Whether you celebrate Christmas or some other Holiday tradition, I’d love to hear what you’d love to see happen in healthcare. And to those of you who do enjoy Christmas, Merry Christmas!