What are the Benefits & Challenges for Healthcare APIs
The opportunity to provide fast, secure, and reliable data transfer between different healthcare applications has opened up the potential for the healthcare industry to be more connected. The only thing that remains is to convince healthcare providers to share their application programming interface (API) and let other application developers use patient health information in their apps following safety requirements of course.
So, is it worth it to share your API for free or for money? Let’s discuss this.
Medical vs. Healthcare API – What is the Difference?
Even though the terms medical API and healthcare API sound the same, there is a big difference between the two of them.
- Medical API refers to the Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient. This is the main substance that ensures the efficiency of a certain medicine.
- As for healthcare API, it refers to the application programming interface which is a part of healthcare software that can be reused to improve the experience of users while working with other applications from healthcare or other industries.
What exactly is an API in Healthcare?
Let’s analyze a simple example to understand what a healthcare API is. Your iPhone Health App can use data from your electronic health record (EHR) if you and your provider allow it. This data exchange and interaction between two systems becomes available because of the healthcare provider API which works as a data transmitter between the EHR and Health App in your iPhone.
This is a simple example, however, the scope of healthcare API application is much wider and it may offer a lot of benefits for API owners, the users of the third-party apps, and the app developers, especially in the healthcare industry.
Why are Apps Vital for Healthcare?
APIs are simple technologies, however, the possibilities for data exchange and interoperability in healthcare that they provide are quite beneficial. Below are the main ones.
- Connectivity. Health information is quite sensitive, but the ability to access it from different devices including Internet of Things (IoT) ones, analyze and reuse it with the help of specific applications can make self-care a daily habit, as opposed to it being checked during infrequent visits to the doctor.
- Expansion. Free but safe data exchange between apps with the help of APIs may contribute to the expanded and more fruitful cooperation between all the healthcare companies including hospitals, pharmaceutical manufacturers, health insurance companies, medical device producers, and even volunteer organizations. By freely sharing information, each of the companies may find unique ways to provide better services, work more efficiently, and contribute to the development of innovations in the healthcare sector.
- Innovation. Data exchange, transfer, and analysis capabilities open up the widest possible opportunities for innovations. The use of simple APIs has solid changes in the revolution of the healthcare services sector. For example, if there is a connection between a social media profile of a mentally ill patient with the app for remote medical services provision, the unusual patterns of the patient’s behavior can send an alarm for the patient’s doctor to check on him or her.
What is Fast Health Interoperability Resource?
Since medical and health data is very sensitive, and therefore very valuable, healthcare API companies need to follow the same rules for data standardization, security, and integration. Fast Health Interoperability Resource (FHIR) is a set of requirements for exchangeable content between different apps. Content is understood as a resource and it should meet the following requirements:
- Have a common definition and method of representation
- Have a common set of metadata
- Have a human-readable part
FHIR works as a road map and makes it easy to identify which resource would be accessed by a third-party app. Since this standard is relevant for all healthcare APIs, following its requirements allow the creation of top-notch healthcare solutions with instant access to the data stored and processed by other software.
What are the Benefits of APIs?
APIs are quite useful in any industry, however, there are some special benefits when it comes to healthcare.
- Boosting the development process. APIs contribute to fast, innovative development in the healthcare sector since using ready-made APIs speeds up the development process without impacting the final user experience.
- Integration and personalization. By sharing your data with a third-party app, you can get deeper insights on what additional apps the patients use to monitor their health, how the users manage this data, and what concerns them in regards to their health, so you can develop better services based on this information.
- Additional profits. Not all healthcare APIs should be free. Your API may be paid, and in this case, the permission to use your API by third-party developers will be a source of additional profits.
The Barriers to an API Introduction
Despite all the benefits, there can be some limitations to the API introduction. Here are the main ones:
- Budget. Creating an enterprise healthcare solution is always costly. API creation makes the final sum even higher. The cost of API creation may reach $20,000.
- Privacy and security. Data sharing and privacy issues often go hand in hand. As for medical information protection, there are additional standards. For example, Open ID Connect can be used to authenticate and authorize access via APIs.
- Standards. There are some standards applicable to healthcare APIs. Compliance with them may be costly as well.
- Workflow and culture. As soon as the patient gains access to certain data, the data exchange process begins when the patient begins to generate data as well. Some companies are wary of the incoming flow of information.
API development, sharing, and distribution is one more way to add value to medical data, and the patients who use specific apps to monitor their health. Our tech-savvy team has great experience in medical solutions development and is ready to discuss your concerns regarding your API creation as well.