Healthcare APIs Bring Innovation
Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), are the hot, new technology in the healthcare industry. While many Healthcare IT (HIT) experts see both challenges and opportunities in the ability to access EMR data with the help of APIs, others recognize areas in need of innovation that don’t require the involvement of EMR vendors. These potential innovations can take place in many different shapes and focus on different parts of the industry, whether providing patients with care-tracking applications or allowing access to databases with healthcare information.
The following are a number of different APIs that exemplify the widening reach and variety that API technology has throughout health IT.
Examples of APIs in Healthcare
Doximity is a social networking service for people working in the healthcare industry. The user base is comprised of physicians and physician assistants, nurse practitioners, pharmacists, and medical students. The service provides a variety of capabilities including medical news, case collaboration user messaging systems, and a residency program navigator for medical students. Doximity also offers its own API for outside developers to use. Doximity’s API allows for a number of functionalities connecting to the service, such as the verification of users against the Doximity database, simplification of user registration, and a “share” button that can be added to outside websites allowing visitors to share content easily and directly on Doximity.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has their own API, openFDA, that provides publicly accessible FDA data on drugs, devices, and foods. With access to this information, developers can create data sets, look up drug effects and check recalled foods. The project references multiple data sets from different areas within the FDA, which are broken down into three areas of focus: adverse events, product recalls, and product labeling. The API protects individual privacy, as it does not give access to any data that could be used to identify individuals. This government initiative began several years ago as a part of the larger Office of Informatics and Technology Innovation roadmap.
NCI Clinical Trials API
The Clinical Trials API was created by the National Cancer Institute with the purpose of furthering the reach of clinical trial information for cancer patients and providers. Hospitals, advocacy groups, and members of the academic community can use it to build apps, integrations, platforms, and search tools. The API gets its data from the Clinical Trial Reporting Program database. It was developed as a part of Vice President Joe Biden’s Cancer Moonshot initiative.
Partnering with the experts over at Apigee, Walgreens has created several different APIs that allow developers to utilize various services offered by the nationwide retailer and pharmacy. Three of their APIs, in particular, are relevant to the healthcare industry: the store locator API, balance rewards API, and pharmacy prescription API.
Walgreens Store Locator API
The Walgreens Store Locator API allows developers to access and integrate store locations and data with their own applications. The locations can be searched for by various parameters, such as zip codes.
Walgreens Balance Rewards API
The Walgreens Balance Rewards API enables pre-qualified partners to connect with Walgreens to share individual member health and wellness information. Users are eligible to receive Walgreens Balance Rewards points for healthy activities like walking, running, and weight management.
One of these partners, Novartis, utilizes this API in their Heart Partner app, which gives patients with heart failure the ability to coordinate care and monitor vitals, medications, and activity. As users track these things in the Novartis Heart Partner app, they receive points towards the Walgreens loyalty program via the Walgreens Balance Rewards API. Learn more from Apigee on how Walgreens uses these APIs for strategic advantage.
Walgreens Pharmacy Prescription API
The Walgreens Pharmacy Prescription API allows third-party mobile and tablet app users to quickly and easily order prescription refills that were originally filled at a Walgreens pharmacy. Users also have the option to opt-in for text alerts sent when prescriptions are ready to be picked up. The API also offers automated refill alerts and a streamlined refill process. WebMD is one of the several applications that offer users the ability to refill and transfer their Walgreens prescriptions through the WebMD app. WebMD also utilizes the Walgreens Balance Rewards API.
Circulation and Uber API
Uber has also found its way into the healthcare industry by providing its ride services to patients. In 2016, the rideshare giant teamed up with Circulation, a digital platform that coordinates non-emergency transportation for the healthcare industry. To achieve this, Circulation integrates healthcare systems and Uber’s API. The American Medical Association estimated in 2005 that 3.6 million individuals failed to receive nonemergency medical care due to transportation barriers. The Uber-Circulation solution aims to reduce that number, thereby reducing the cost of missed appointments
in healthcare settings as well as reducing the risk of patient
complications that could result in hospital admissions.
Flutrack is a system that tracks influenza symptoms around the world by monitoring and processing flu-related tweets. The Flutrack API searches Twitter and gathers recent tweets that include relevant words like flu and influenza, as well as symptoms such as headaches, chills, fever, and sneezing. Using geolocations, the data is then mapped, creating a visual with the help of Google maps.
What does this mean for Healthcare?
The examples above highlight that innovations within the industry are indeed happening. With the help of APIs, these innovations don’t always have to rely on the involvement of EMR vendors and can continue to push the industry forward. Once again showing the power, and the genuine benefit of having APIs as a core of your digital strategy.