The use of Open APIs is a relatively new form of secure data sharing in clinical healthcare. API stands for Application Programming Interface, and allows the health care provider to expose data on the web so correspondents can download it through automated applications. The industry is consolidating around an API technique called Fast Healthcare Interoperable Resources (FHIR), an HL7 standard. Although FHIR is not considered fully functional, it has a stable draft and has been integrated into several EHRs.
How are Open APIs / FHIR used?
FHIR and Open APIs primary workflows/use cases:
- Retrieving selected C-CDA fields from an EHR
- Polling EHR field data from mobile applications
- Offering new services to compliment email style “push” messaging
What are the advantages of Open APIs / FHIR?
Open APIs and FHIR are attractive to software solution developers because they represent a programmatic, web services approach to retrieving specific data from another source. Web services APIs have proven very efficient and cost effective method of presenting existing data within a new application. Some very common and recognizable solutions using web service APIs expose local weather or stock market data, or a news feed in a web portal.
What are some of the challenges of Open APIs / FHIR
As previously noted, Open APIs and FHIR are relatively new techniques for sharing and acquiring clinical health data. There are many trials and production uses, but deployment at the source of data, most prominently provider EHR systems, is at the initial stage of implementation. Therefore new services and solutions that seek to use Open APIs and FHIR to retrieve patient data fields will find limited availability – and may need a narrow use case and / or population (ie – a specific health system where FHIR is available for test), trials and production rollout.
DataMotion Direct on FHIR
The DataMotion Direct messaging service and DataMotion Direct APIs are data sharing techniques complementary to the emerging FHIR Open API standard. DataMotion is working with partners to leverage both health information exchange techniques for innovative new solutions that enable patient engagement, care management, transitions of care, patient enrollment and other digital health solutions that align with the vision and health delivery transformation tenets of the 21st Century Cures Act.
Standards Groups, Direct Messaging and Open APIs/FHIR
Direct Trust, the organization responsible for managing and promoting the Direct Messaging standard, and the HL7 organization responsible for the FHIR API initiative, both have active tracks developing synergy, interoperability and testing use case scenarios and techniques for using FHIR and Direct Messaging in concert.
The current set of scenarios are identified as follows:
- Sending FHIR resources within a Direct Message as an attachment
- Utilizing Direct Trust certificates with the FHIR RESTful API to enable trust relationships to scale