September 20, 2012

Healthcare & APIs: A Powerful Solution

 

Healthcare has been a hot topic nationally for the past few years now. Debates rage about what we should and shouldn’t be doing with our healthcare system. One thing that I hope most people agree on, however, is that opening up data can be part of the healthcare solution.

With digital medical records, doctors, hospitals, nurses, physical therapists, etc. will be able to easily record and transfer their patient’s information to one another. Data availability also increases its usage. By making healthcare data available digitally, more apps like VueMe will be built. VueMe lets doctors send patients their medical images like X-rays, so patients can then show specialists and other care providers. Apps like VueMe could help increase effectiveness of treatment by making it easier for multiple doctors who treat the same patient to share information (treatment plans, prescriptions, lab results, etc.).

Another benefit to greater health data availability is greater patient motivation. Medical records can be integrated with data from health/fitness/wellness apps (think RunKeeper, LoseIt, MapMyFitness, etc.) so that doctors can see how much their patients are exercising, dieting and more. Insurance companies can provide incentives, such as gift cards or discounts to keep people motivated (this is not unheard of some insurance companies have been doing this for years,) Integrating health and wellness data with medical records will create a more complete picture of overall health for doctors to assess, and will soon become a reality, thanks to Aetna’s CarePass Sync, initiative.

To make this all happen, data needs to be more openly available, and that of course, means APIs. More insurance companies will need to follow in Aetna’s footsteps, or working alongside them, and begin creating APIs that provide access to medical records. Hospitals will need to do the same. There is a lot of talk about Fortune 1000 companies getting an API; the same is true for any company, physician’s office, etc. involved in healthcare. For data to be easily shared, it needs to have an API.

Of course, caution is needed. Often, when you hear API, it refers to an “open” API (one that anyone can have managed access). When it comes to healthcare and medical records, “opening up” needs to be done more carefully. This information is sensitive. API management will be key in healthcare’s venture into the API space. A good API management solution can set up rules about who can access what and how much. Different rules can be set up for different groups. Secure access to the data can be provided. Traffic can be monitored for unexpected activity spikes. And analytics can deliver an overview of how much data is being used where and for what. All of these aspects are important to track to ensure private healthcare data remains protected.

Making data more easily available could help us change healthcare as we know it. A few different organizations around the country have already used data to lower healthcare costs by finding the “costliest” patients and changing the way they’re been treated (read this article – it’s amazing). APIs will be key to making our healthcare data more accessible and our healthcare system more efficient. Through API Management, healthcare data can be offered in a controlled, secure but more accessible way to drive change and innovation in an industry that needs it the most.