Public APIs Getting Ready For Prime Time

Neil Versel | Healthcare IT News | November 18, 2014

'Any system that wants to implement these open specs can run these apps in any way they like'

At the American Medical Informatics Association's annual symposium today, developers and backers of public application programming interfaces talked about how the standard could speed interoperability with add-on apps to enterprise EHRs, and help make those bulky systems more nimble.  In a recent draft of its 10-year roadmap toward interoperability, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT adopted a recommendation from its JASON task force that Stage 3 of meaningful use include public APIs. The first such API likely would be Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources, or FHIR (pronounced "fire"), a standard being developed by Health Level Seven International.

On Tuesday at AMIA's annual conference, fans of FHIR discussed a federally funded test implementation of the standard, and what it might mean for moving the needle on interoperability.  Widespread adoption of FHIR could make the EHR a "potentially open platform," much like Facebook or, said David McCallie Jr., MD, director of the Cerner Medical Informatics Institute, and a co-chair of the ONC JASON task force. "This notion of a platform is something we’re very comfortable with now."

Apps built on an open API would extend the platform, he explained.  "It's also, for this crowd, a new channel," McCallie said to this meeting of medical informatics professionals. It would be an alternative to manipulating the source code of an EHR, which he said few CMIOs get to do these days anyway...