In healthcare, we’re accustomed to things moving slowly. But every so often, trends accelerate and leaps are made, for better or sometimes worse. Recent news from two large EHR vendors about the adoption of open APIs signals an encouraging trend.
When we launched our Infera Clinical Decision Support system seven months ago, we did so with Allscripts and athenahealth EHRs, because their initial set of APIs made it possible for Infera to harness the rich data from the patient charts to deliver patient-specific clinical recommendations. For us, this ability to analyze the patient’s current and historical data using our comprehensive clinical rules engine and do so seamlessly within the EHR workflow was critical. It allowed for the delivery of actionable evidence-based clinical recommendations rather than the condition-specific reading lists that clinicians have come to expect from “clinical decision support.” It meant that “the button” could make the clinician’s job easier, rather than adding work to their day.
As we worked toward the launch of Infera, we were thrilled to be working with Allscripts and athenahealth but marveled that at the time, they were the only two large EHR companies who invited third party developers to enhance their solutions.
But we’re heartened by recent news signaling that things are changing – Cerner and Epic are embracing third-party collaboration. That they now intend to open up their APIs to development partners who are committed to enhancing the utility of EHRs at the point of care means they understand that EHRs need to evolve and should be viewed positively by the broad base of stakeholders seeking openness and interoperability.
It also means that they recognize that Clinical leaders are starting to see the potential for enhanced EHR experiences to help deliver better patient care, mitigate risk and support clinicians. And we are further encouraged to see that the early adopters see the value in open APIs signaled by Allscripts adding more APIs to their developer program.
These moves by Cerner and Epic are positive steps in the right direction but the quest for true interoperability will require broad-scale commitment to a data standard, or “spec,” such as FHIR (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources). One of FHIR’s biggest advantages over EHR-specific APIs is of course that it is a standard, but equally important is that it was designed specifically for rapid and robust data exchange. Last week FHIR STU 3 was released, promising enhancements to support for clinical decision support systems and clinical quality measures which gives third party applications like Infera a better shot at providing real value at the point of care in a scalable way.
As supporters of the open-EHR movement, we are hopeful that this latest news from Cerner, Epic and Allscripts signals a move towards acceptance of the FHIR standard for interoperability by EHR vendor community, which will make analysis of patient data in EHRs by third party applications a reality.