APIs play a vital role in healthcare IT communication since it permits data interchange among patients and healthcare providers. Before API came into the picture, it was difficult for healthcare contributors to engage patients and retrieve information. According to the Survey by CCM in 2019, one-third of health centers and well-being systems revealed that their data interchange efforts were insufficient without API.
It allows healthcare companies to provide essential information to patients and makes the medical applications stronger to engage and connect with patients through mobile and social apps. With the help of various techniques, it makes it easy to interact with specialists and patients to get up-to-date patient information. Healthcare APIs can bring collective information that can be used for generating reports and supports the developers to integrate their apps with individual devices.
The Global Healthcare API market size was valued at USD 210.9 million in 2019 and is anticipated to grow at a CAGR of 6.3% from 2020 to 2027 to reach USD 3306.02 million. Acquisition of API integrated EHR has increased and it provides easy access to patient’s health information, enhances patient outcomes, and increases patient satisfaction. An increase in the adoption of mobile apps and wearable devices that can access the data from EHRs are the major factors that increase the inclusion of APIs. Internal standardization of various workflows will help to access the patient’s data. For example, In June 2018 Apple Health launched a healthcare API and it helps to access the EHR data of patients from more than 500 hospitals in the US.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and worldwide lockdowns, there is a scarcity of manpower in every industry, notably the healthcare industry where doctors and nurses are unable to cope with the overflowing number of cases. This is seen as another reason for the implementation of healthcare API to facilitate remote data access and healthcare operations in hospitals and other organizations.
For example, In April 2020 Google launched cloud healthcare API v1 in order to preserve patient privacy and also to make it interoperable for COVID-19 research purposes. After COVID-19, the growing demand for telemedicine and digital health solutions further increases the need for integrated healthcare API which is expected to boost the market in the coming years.
Classification of API in Healthcare:
In the healthcare domain, we can utilize the API in different ways such as Finance and Payment, Patient registration, Health tracking, Clinical, and IoT.
Registration API: The purpose of this API is to handle the registration functions involved with EHR systems. Authentication and Authorization is the prerequisite for these APIs since it provides an entry to all the upcoming activities related to consumer information.
Scheduling API: The user could use this API to schedule an appointment, sending reminder alerts, checking open consultation slots, and reschedule appointments. Scheduling is one of the most used functionalities in the healthcare sector and it can be integrated with various processes like billing, messaging, and notifications.
Financial API: This API helps to manage the payment transaction between various healthcare providers and respective parties. It can be further divided into Claim API and Billing API. Security is the most critical requirement for these APIs where authentication and authorization are needed.
Clinical API: This API helps to manage the clinical information exchange through EHR systems. It can be used to track the patient’s medical data, treatment plan, and enables the physicians to make better decisions on a patient’s health.
Public Health API: This API can exchange reportable clinical data to the public and other related organizations. It can also be used to track public health in case of threats like the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
IoT and Activity tracker API: In recent years there has been aggressive development in wearable health and activity monitoring devices. It is one of the new aspects of personal health monitoring and it speeds up the innovation of patient-centric health applications.
Ancillary API: This API helps to manage the information related to systems such as pharmacy, nutrition, laboratory, and telemedicine platforms, etc.
Security elements to be considered in Healthcare API development:
While developing healthcare APIs, the developers should pay close attention to ensure security since it handles sensitive information. The misuse of information may lead to severe consequences. Many countries have their own laws to protect their citizen’s health data. Following security elements should be considered while developing healthcare APIs:
Device security: Some healthcare apps are designed specifically for medical devices and not for smartphones. Some health organizations can rent such medical devices to their patients and it may lead to data loss. So the device should be locked every time a session is completed.
Data encryption: While transferring data from the user to server, there is a chance that hackers can steal the information. So the user can send and receive the data in an encrypted format since personal medical data hacking is very dangerous for patients. Transport Layer Security protocol is the most efficient way to encrypt the information.
Protected access: Healthcare should have limited access since it stores personal information. Hence it should have a login and authorization screen that will make it possible to get access to all information only for authorized users.
Regulatory compliance: When creating a new medical application, it should follow the data security regulations applied by different countries. If the sales target of the application is focused on the USA and European marketplace, then the application should be created with HIPAA and GDPR regulation compliance.
Proper Testing: Even though functional testing is performed in the application, it is necessary to do effective load and security testing to detect the vulnerabilities.
Healthcare APIs address the deficiency of EHR interoperability:
Deficiency of patient discovery standardization, shortage of payer participation in information exchange, and lack of communication standards across EHRs are some of the reasons for the deficiency of EHR interoperability. APIs have the potential to handle all of these problems by ensuring data and communication between EHRs and HIT systems.
Healthcare APIs to work along with Big Data:
Since healthcare applications process a huge amount of data, it requires strong support to work with all medical data. That is the reason where healthcare API from other services comes in.
Human API: This is a free API, collects and shares real-time data with patients and organizations and it allows easy and secure access to health information with the assistance of machine learning. It extracts the records from various files and then processes and analyzes them.
DrChrono: DrChrono API helps to solve EHRs, medical billing, mobile e-prescribing procedures, and other medicine oriented issues. This service is developed specifically for doctors to verify the prescriptions and discover more detailed information about the patients. This API is available for free.
BlueEHR: This API helps to customize the healthcare app features and processes a large amount of data to work with EHR and EMR. The goal of this API is to make healthcare affordable and accessible to everyone.
APIs for Payment and Insurances:
Healthcare APIs can be leveraged for processing financial transactions with a high level of security.
Eligible: This API enables the user to search for insurance companies and select the appropriate one. This helps the users to connect their apps with their chosen insurance companies and enables the payments to be faster, easier, and more secure.
GetSafe: This API service shifts the focus to health insurance and enables health insurance providers to reach out to the patients in a secure manner and offer them suitable insurance plans.
Challenges of Integrating API into healthcare:
Due to the growth of technology, healthcare organizations are facing the following challenges while integrating API into healthcare.
Privacy, Security, and Legacy concern: Developing medical API depends on a lot of medical regulations as Personal Health Information should be kept secure at all times. For that reason, many countries have their own set of legal regulations regarding medical data. These legal regulations slow down the growth of health APIs as they need to meet these requirements.
Technical barriers: Lack of technology resources, development standards, and low scalability of medical software are barriers that slow down healthcare interoperability in medical organizations.
Financial Concerns: Lack of financial resources in healthcare organizations and lack of understanding about the investments that enable healthcare interoperability and how it could potentially benefit the healthcare provider and the consumer, in the long run, are also causes for the slow expansion of APIs in healthcare.
Lack of IT Usability: Another challenge in the development of APIs for healthcare is the lack of full documentation, effective tools for testing, designing, and monitoring them.
Benefits of Healthcare APIs:
Bridges the gap between physicians and patients: Medical APIs enable the patients to record their health information in a medical app. Based on the health information, it makes the practitioners or doctors decide the treatment plan and it improves the efficiency of treatment.
Additional storage space: Healthcare applications constantly drag the information from multiple sources can take a lot of time. APIs save storage space on devices and reduce the development time.