EMR/EHR API Integrations: Crucial Things to Know
January 17, 2023
Effective delivery of modern healthcare requires a seamless exchange of EMR/EHR data and connectivity between devices, programs, and applications within ecosystems. The EMR or EHR integration of APIs in healthcare is an essential step towards ensuring these requirements are met and thereby enable healthcare enterprises to provide faster, empowered care.
This blog aims to outline key points to consider regarding this type of integration including:
- What is API Integration?
- Advantages of API Integration
- How to Ensure Effective API Integration
- Frequency Asked Questions
What is API Integration?
To understand API integration, let’s first look at what an API is: an API is an application programming interface that oversees the processing of requests and works to safeguard seamless functionality between systems within an enterprise. In the healthcare environment, an EMR or EHR integration of an API facilitates interaction between the various healthcare information systems, patient data applications, and medical devices a healthcare enterprise may have within its ecosystem.
An EMR API (or EHR API) is the automation workhorse that operates to efficiently deliver transfer patient data to where it is needed and acts like a “connectivity glue” between medical devices and medical programs.
Advantages of API Integration
As mentioned, EMR or EHR integration is the linchpin to the efficient provision of today’s healthcare — an arena that now includes electronic health services that involve the use of telehealth and telemedicine, mobile health, and wearable technologies.
Modern healthcare websites and applications make it easier than ever for patients and doctors to be connected. Effective EMR or EHR integration assists many healthcare enterprises in achieving improved patient outcomes and making remarkable gains in interoperability toward optimal productivity.
For healthcare enterprises, implementing this type of integration enables connectivity between disparate applications and programs via a proxy layer. In turn, this integration is advantageous in making healthcare more effective and efficient in the following ways:
Bridging Patients and Doctors
With the integration of an EMR API/EHR API, patient data can immediately be accessed by doctors or other healthcare professionals via any connected IoT devices, from which an appropriate care plan can be determined. Any confirmed care information will also be accessible via a patient platform like a patient portal and securely stored in an enterprise’s system. This results in reduced operational costs, a healthy bottom line, and improved patient care delivery for healthcare enterprises.
Streamlining Patient Administration
API-driven health insurance can expedite insurance management. By leveraging APIs in healthcare administration, patient information can be integrated into systems that interface with insurance companies, resulting in a more efficient patient insurance determination and billing process. These APIs can work to provide timely arbitration on a patient’s insurance coverage, prescription, and more.
Integrating Healthcare Operations
APIs in healthcare can be used by healthcare providers to efficiently execute a number of business and care-optimizing activities including securely collecting and processing patient data, managing requirements for optimal staffing, and identifying vectors to improve data administration. EMR API integration also simplifies image and file sharing between facilities, departments, and practices. For healthcare enterprises, this equals fewer clinical mistakes, reduced overtime-related costs, and improved patient care.
Facilitating Mobile Health & Integrating Data
User activity continues to grow for mHealth apps. For patients using smart healthcare devices such as health fitness trackers, EMR API integration makes it easy for patients to share the data from their devices with their doctors and/or have it included in their medical records with their healthcare provider.
How to Ensure Effective API Integration
As with anything, good planning and observance of best practices – particularly with respect to the EMR or EHR integration of APIs in healthcare – tends to result in successful completion. We’ve curated for you some top tips to consider in ensuring effective integration:
Define Integration Scope and Early Vendor Engagement
Determining the scope of your EMR or EHR integration project is an essential first step. Using a questionnaire is a great tool to spark insightful conversations and facilitate effective collaboration with internal stakeholders.
Early vendor engagement should also be taken into account when planning for such an integration project. Vendor management involves the practice of risk assessment, cost control, and service excellence mobilization organizations need to undertake to receive optimal value from their vendors throughout a deal’s lifecycle. Ascertaining vendor management early in the planning phase of an integration project helps establish a solid foundation of implementation success.
Assure All Industry-Required Compliances in Place
Security is paramount and must be at the core of any integration planning and deployment. Ensure any APIs integrated meet the legal as well as industry standard requirements (e.g., HIPAA, SOC, PIPEDA, etc.) and that they adhere to API protocols.
Prioritize Your Physicians in the Design
An excellent line of sight to the needs of the end user perspective of API-related EMR or EHR integration is garnering input from the physicians within your organization. Incorporating physician insights into your integration project planning will guide implementation in ensuring clinical workflows, physician accessibility, and patient care delivery are optimally affected.
Optimize Your API Plan
Build an EMR or EHR integration plan that addresses crucial questions including:
- What type of API(s) is involved?
- What is the data payload being processed? (Most APIs send data in JSON or XML or both.)
- Is the correct documentation available? (With it, API integration is quite challenging. Developers require the appropriate documentation (e.g., WADL for REST applications and WSDL for SOAP applications) to understand what data is available and how to format their requests.)
- Has the appropriate data flow research been conducted? (This includes determining authentication, data discrepancies, timing/volume/speed of data transferring, CRUDS (the intent for the data being processed).)
- Has a master data map been created? (Outline all planning in a visual reference for the integration team)
- Has the timeline for development been determined?
- What does the testing phase look like?
Survey Organizational Staff
In addition to conferring with your physicians, it is beneficial to request input from other staff teams within your healthcare organization. Doing so not only grants the integration team a complete picture of what API integration work needs to be carried out but also provides a benchmark of “best benefit” to the organization.
Safeguard Security Towards Futureproofed Integrations
Understanding the API integration maturity curve enables integration teams to develop effective integration strategies based on sound API management practices while ensuring API integrations completed will continue to serve the organization for years to come.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does an API integration take?
The time required for successful integration depends on a number of factors including available resources, the type of EMR API/EHR API being integrated, the solution or platform the EMR API/EHR API is being integrated into, the scope of the integration project, and how knowledgeable the team is executing the work. The latter is a key element to determine the timeframe of the API integration project — depending on the coding experience of the team, integration work can be performed within 20 minutes to a few hours to a day…or more.