Demystifying APIs for telemedicine solutions
At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare clinics and organizations were forced to leverage disparate telemedicine solutions as a short-term solution in order to continue caring for patients. Organizations quickly implemented these solutions, such as video conferencing, charting software, and e-prescriptions platforms. The consequences of using disparate telemedicine systems are felt across providers and patients, with a lack of connected patient data, effective care, and provider burnout.
Although the pandemic magnified these challenges for providers and patients, they existed in healthcare way before 2020. So, how can healthcare organizations increase interoperability between their telemedicine solutions so they work in conjunction with other systems without restrictions, and allow providers to refocus on their mission of providing care?
One way to increase interoperability between solutions is by leveraging APIs. An API is an Application Programming Interface that enables telehealth solutions to “talk to each other.” An API connects software across an organization so data is shared between them.
How can APIs help encourage data sharing and platform integration?
Healthcare organizations that employ an array of technology to capture patient information and healthcare data may leverage an open API– an API made available to software developers– to share data between systems. Here’s a real example of how it works:
- A provider may chart patient notes in their organization’s electronic medical record (EMR). Their EMR is a siloed application where patient data is stored.
- However, the same provider may use a different telemedicine solution to record session notes during appointments, and they need the patient data from the EMR to inform their notes.
- Usually, the provider would manually enter the same patient data from their EMR into their telemedicine solution. At this point, the provider has spent double the time completing the same administrative task of entering patient information. This provider cares for about 30 patients per day, meaning they are manually entering patient data 30 more times than required.
- The healthcare organization leveraged a HIPAA and PHIPA compliant API provided by their EMR to retrieve patient data, which was fed from their EMR into their telemedicine solution.
APIs can help reduce operational inefficiencies across healthcare organizations, especially as telemedicine operations become more complex with more platforms and systems available. With open APIs, data can seamlessly flow through an organization from system to system and reduce the provider “swivel chair” method.
With free flowing data, providers are able to manage patients and their care in a more efficient way with the information they need at their fingertips, helping them to treat patients holistically and effectively. With connected telemedicine solutions providers can be more proactive in their treatment and improve continuity of care across their organization.