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API Economy: The Panacea for Healthcare Interoperability

API Economy: The Panacea for Healthcare Interoperability
January 13, 2016

The problem of interoperability has plagued the Healthcare industry for ages. The prime reason for this has been the complexity of data involved and lack of willingness to collaborate on the part of different stakeholders in the Healthcare value chain. With the rising costs and pressure from the Government post ACA implementation, the industry has been on the lookout for solutions plaguing the problem of data silos in legacy healthcare applications. One panacea for this chronic disease which has mired the industry is API or rather API Economy.

The API Economy is the commercial exchange of business functions, capabilities or competencies as services using web APIs (IBM). The successful use of API’s in different industries ranging from retail to financial services has certainly caught the eye of Healthcare CXOs. For new age Providers who wish to extend care beyond the walls of the hospital and Payers who are fast maturing into Lifestyle & Wellness managers for their customers, embracing an API centered approach holds the key.

One of the biggest advantages which API offers is data availability. As data availability increases across the Healthcare value chain, it increases avenues for collaboration among hospitals, doctors, patients & insurance companies. Apples’ Research Kit is a perfect example to this effect. It is an open source software framework that makes it easy for researchers and developers to create apps to access the data on vitals & other measurements gathered via sensors on IPhone users. Another example of collaboration through API is Apple Health Kit. HealthKit allows apps that provide health and fitness services to share their data with the new Health app and with each other. A user’s health information is stored in centralized and secure location and the user decides which data should be shared with your app. These collaborations are significant considering they can add a lot of value towards improving the quality of care besides reducing the redundancy in the system & thereby reducing the cost of care.

As organizations across the healthcare spectrum are looking at ‘Data Monetization’ to create additional sources of revenue, one of the key challenges facing them is the mode & medium of sharing the complex healthcare data in a secured manner. API could play a pivotal role in this regard. API’s force websites to break the data into smaller bite size packets that can be consumed individually. As healthcare industry has traditionally exchanged data in the form of discharge summaries and continuity of care documents, API led approach of data sharing has the potential to revolutionize the industry by making more information available to researchers leading to easy monetization. Although some of the data in the industry is currently present in the XML format that allows a program to extract a particular piece of information, it is still a much more complicated approach compared to REST and SOA API’s.

Organizations across the industries have also leveraged API economy to increase brand Loyalty, reduce customer churn and improve business performance by increasing the Client Value.

Though there are many success stories of API economy like Amazon, TripAdvisor, Google; the road is also littered with cases of organizations that have burned their hands at it. Aetna, a major U.S. health insurance provider, in 2014 launched its CarePass platform to gives developers ability to allow their app users to securely access health-related data. However the platform had to be shut down within a year of its launch as it failed to gain traction among consumers signifying that a broad based strategy both at the Business Level & at the IT department level is essential for the success of such programs.

With all the advantages listed above, API is certainly an attractive proposition for Healthcare organizations. However, it needs to be exercised with restraint when dealing with sensitive patient information. With the effective API management solution in place, organizations can offer data in a secured & controlled manner and embark on this journey towards Healthcare Interoperability. Even from the regulatory point of view there is a positive push as is evident in the expanded requirements for Meaningful Use Stage 3 ( MU3) calling for the increased emphasis on API’s. With the convergence of consumer needs and regulatory push the industry might just be able to make progress on the long standing aspiration of Interoperability.