The benefits of APIs and interoperability

Imagine if your company and its products were segmented by technology in everyday use.

You can’t collaborate with someone using a different computer operating system, projects require different standards and practices throughout the process of development, and finished results are only usable by a fraction of your audience. Not only would this be inconvenient, but it would also bring innovation to a halt as you spend your days navigating technical limitations.

While this may seem like a nightmare, it’s a reality in the healthcare industry without openness and interoperability. Information is the building block of new therapies, technologies and apps that connect patients and providers, and everyone benefits when this data is shared on a universal level. That’s why Cerner has been a leader in advocating policy for the free exchange of data for more than 40 years.​

Our goal is not to create in a vacuum and only focus on what Cerner can do, so we’re joining forces with organizations that are playing a significant role in the much-needed work of disrupting the industry status quo. Through application programming interfaces (APIs), a patient can link devices like their smart watch to a patient portal, so a clinician can access up-to-the-minute healthcare data. 

While the above is an example of an API that works on a singular, patient level, data can also be pulled at a population level using bulk APIs, a group of programs that provide system access to large quantities of high-quality clinical data while aligning with healthcare standards. 

Bulk APIs excel in uploading and querying  large amounts of data. They allow healthcare experts to see the big picture in data and focus on solving problems, not just for patients but for the world. These bulk APIs streamline data exchange, expand data liquidity and enable new business opportunities. Currently, if researchers or clinicians need bulk data, they have to pull from separate sources, perhaps paying different fees and working through different systems to attain the data they need. On January 1, 2023, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will require U.S. healthcare organizations to comply with new bulk API mandates, saving time and resources and knocking down barriers to data.

Through bulk APIs, systems can ask questions like, “Which diabetic patients have an A1c level that is elevated?” or “How do we predictively model neuropathy onset in diabetic patients?” These are big questions to ask, but the answers have the possibility of improving the lives of millions of patients.

The COVID-19 pandemic will likely be studied for years to come, and through bulk APIs, health systems will be able to pull data on COVID patients on a massive scale, enabling new research possibilities.

Bulk APIs can inform determinants of health in a particular community and which patients visited the emergency room more than X times in the last 12 months. What underlying causes connect these visits? Through APIs, you can collect data from geographical segments to see how diseases are moving throughout a community or identify other external factors impacting the health of a city, town or region.

In addition, bulk APIs can help in researching long-standing diseases, such as creating a database of sickle cell patients to help better understand the condition, gaining insight into patient data to help conduct clinical trials. It can also improve aspects of healthcare outside the direct clinical space by charting advanced payment modeling. 

Federal agencies are already using bulk APIs outside the healthcare space. For example, the FDA is utilizing bulk APIs for real-world evidence generation.

Data is the building block of knowledge and being able to pull different populations from bulk data holds massive potential for the future of healthcare. 

The transferred healthcare data is kept secure and simple by Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR)and accessed using a modern web-based suite of API technology. FHIR was introduced in 2012 but didn’t begin from scratch. It is a standard-based framework developed outside the healthcare field that has been proven to be successful. As interoperability continues to become an important factor in healthcare, continued improvements to FHIR will keep data safe, accessible and standardized. 

Bulk APIs will remove roadblocks to important, data-based research that could lead to important breakthroughs. This is just one benefit of interoperability and is why Cerner supports the free exchange of data.


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