After a long period of debate, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) released its interoperability rule, which is part of the 21st Century Cures Act. This rule focuses mainly on patient blocking and encouraging the use of APIs to improve interoperability in healthcare. Many health IT experts believe that this new rule will successfully reduce clinician burden. In the same manner that cell phones have transformed the way we communicate with each other, APIs can enhance the process by which clinicians manage patient data.
In our latest article, Iron Bridge explains how these new APIs can successfully lower clinician burden and improve EHR interoperability.
The ONC Final Rule
What the ONC Rule Entails and How it Impacts Interoperability in Healthcare
In order to enable seamless access to electronic health records (EHRs) and improve interoperability in healthcare, the ONC released the Final Operability rule. This new rule includes a variety of provisions:
- Updated certification requirements for health IT developers
- The ability for healthcare providers to communicate with developers regarding a program’s user experience, interoperability, and security using screenshots or video
- The requirement for EHRs to provide relevant clinical data that promotes new business models for patient care
- Establishment of secure, standards-based application programming interface (API) requirements to help patients maintain autonomy over their electronic health information
- A new Condition of Participation (CoP) that requires Medicare and Medicaid participating hospitals to send electronic notifications to other healthcare providers when a patient is admitted, transferred, or discharged
- The ability for patients to access their health information through third-party applications
Together, these provisions aim to empower patients by giving them increased access to their health information.
Third-Party Apps and APIs
How Improved Healthcare Technology Will Impact the Way We Manage EHRs
Most U.S. citizens nowadays rely on intuitive and responsive interfaces to complete everyday tasks such as online shopping and financial services. Unbeknownst to many of them, the same interfaces that they use regularly on these apps are also used by APIs. If this technology is expanded in healthcare, it could bring in a new era of simpler, more efficient management of EHRs.
Many third-party health IT apps can analyze tests and pertinent patient information to help healthcare providers make informed clinical decisions for their patients. Clinical decision support (CDS) tools, for instance, are geared specifically toward assisting physicians with treatment and diagnostic issues. Physicians can also use these tools to access important information contained in EHRs.
APIs and COVID-19
How APIs Can Help Healthcare Providers Manage COVID-19 in Various Settings
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to take a toll on the U.S. healthcare system, public health agencies and hospitals are in need of tools to help them effectively handle the pandemic. A CDS app could incorporate the latest guidelines on taking care of patients in one streamlined source. Another API could track COVID-19 transmissions in real-time.
The ultimate goal for these API-enabled EHRs is for them to be used in a similar manner that regular mobile apps are used. These apps must be responsive, informative, accessible, and secure.
One of the main frustrations that physicians have with paper medical records is the time it can take to sort through hundreds of pages of data to find the specific information they need on a patient. APIs can eliminate the time wasted searching for information by allowing clinicians to obtain only the precise data they need at the moment.
Future Uses for APIs
What’s Next for the Advancement of Interoperability in Healthcare
While APIs are already moving toward the right direction in reducing clinician burden, they still have a long way to go.
For instance, MRI scans and other pertinent information should be made available through APIs. This can prevent physicians from having to order duplicate tests. As of now, API access is read-only. In the future, the ability of APIs to add or edit EHR information will need to be implemented.
Right now, developers are also working to allow EHR apps access to background apps. For instance, a CDS app could suggest another app for providers that will help them select a medication based on a patient’s health conditions and allergies.
A Health IT Solution for Improving Interoperability in Healthcare
Meet the fhirstation by Iron Bridge. Designed for the 21st Century Cures Act and the ONC and CMS Interoperability Final Rule of 2020, the fhirstation functions as a Saas solution for EHR vendors and any other entity required to provide patient data through an API. Withfhirstation, healthcare providers can safely store patient health information into its native FHIR v4 data model. They can also examine their patients’ health information and test results using fhirstation’s powerful data analytics tools.
Improving interoperability in healthcare is critical for reducing clinician burden and helping patients and physicians efficiently access pertinent data. To learn more about APIs and how you can use them to improve your current workflow, contact the experts at Iron Bridge today.