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APIs for Your EHR: Exploring the API and IoT Opportunity in Healthcare

In a monthly blog series brought to you by CA API Management, we are exploring how the Internet of Things (IoT) is transforming industries. Today, we are focusing on the enormous IoT opportunity in healthcare.

This month is a good time to highlight healthcare, as the industry has recently made headlines. From the HIMSS conference to updates to the Medicare program, to leading technology companies like Amazon and Apple beginning to participate in the ecosystem, the healthcare industry is changing as technology disrupts traditional services. And most in the industry are saying, 'finally!'

Let's dig into some of the recent healthcare news, as always focusing on the role of mobile technologies, application programming interfaces (APIs), and connectivity in solving industry challenges and providing new sources of value.

Medicare Introduces APIs for Data Integration

An innovative program focused on APIs to create a broader ecosystem of patient data was announced at the HIMSS conference in March. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) introduced Blue Button 2.0: a developer-friendly, standards-based API that enables Medicare beneficiaries to connect their claims data to trusted providers, applications, digital health services, and research programs.

For the 53 million Medicare members, this means four years of data - including drug prescriptions, primary care treatment, coverage type, and cost - will be made available to a network of integrated partners across the patient's entire medical care. Through the API, patients determine who will have access to their data and how it will be used, with identity and authorization managed by Developers can easily integrate their apps and services with the Blue Button API to access or share health data.

How APIs Help Healthcare

Industries are quickly realizing the value of data and of devices, apps, and services participating in a connected ecosystem powered by this data. The Blue Button Medicare project is an interesting example of the potential of APIs to enable this ecosystem through integration.

In the healthcare industry today, patients see a number of different providers and specialists, as well as use connected devices like insulin pumps and fitness trackers to monitor and control their health at home. This creates huge volumes of data that is disaggregated, exists in formats that are incompatible, and is difficult to meaningfully analyze and draw insight from.

For the Blue Button program, CMS adopted the FHIR HL7, or Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources, standard for its API. This is the common standard for exchanging healthcare data electronically and allows for interoperability between proprietary systems and devices. Back in January, Apple also announced that it has adopted this standard for its upcoming Health Records app.

There's enormous potential for the promise of healthcare IoT with this standard. It enables commercial apps and devices to participate in the healthcare ecosystem and share data with medical practitioners. As more of healthcare moves online and to preventive measures like tracking health through connected devices, it will be critical for these devices to securely and seamlessly share data with electronic health record (EHR) systems in a format from which insights can be easily drawn. This is what connected healthcare will look like in the age of IoT.

APIs Keep Data Safe

The completely free flow of data is great in principle, but it's not without risk. For something as sensitive and personal as patient data, security is paramount. Secure, governed APIs achieve interoperability while ensuring data is available only to trusted parties.

For the Blue Button API, security is built into development. Participants must comply with security requirements and are authorized through the OAuth 2.0 standard integrated into the API.

OAuth is widely recognized as the industry standard for authorization. As an additional security component, the API does not transmit Social Security numbers, Medicare numbers or date of birth of the patients.

APIs are opening the healthcare industry to the possibilities of connected technologies. This ecosystem of data and devices will help to create better outcomes for patients and providers alike.

To explore how CA supports APIs in healthcare, visit our FHIR developer portal.

For more information on the role of APIs in IoT, please download our eBook: How APIs Fast-Track IoT Opportunities Across Industries.

The first blog in our monthly IoT series can be found here.

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CharlotteODonnelly contributed to this article