Medical Records, Interoperability and API’s

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Healthcare IT industry and API’s. APIs are good for innovation, good for vendors’ bottom lines and, the reason that trumps all others, good for the patient.


So what’s the hold-up in the healthcare world? Why doesn’t my medical data move with me as easily as my music?


I can’t really answer that, but here are some possibilities (all speculation on my part):


Speculation #1: Vendors want all IT dollars spent in hospitals to be spent only with their company. Closed platforms do indeed create a situation where all new ideas need to come from the vendor themselves, often as extra-cost options. They also make it much, much harder for the customer to switch to another vendor – because there’s all that data trapped in the systems that would have to be extracted somehow, and then laboriously converted to the format used by the new system. This actually turns out to work against the vendors’ best financial interests (see below). And it clearly holds back the state of the practice — again, just imagine if Apple would have had to come up with all the apps that are currently available for their phones…


Speculation #2: There’s a data security problem; it’s not “safe” for private patient data to flow freely between systems. Security and privacy of patient data is without question a high priority, and that responsibility must not be taken lightly. But, for example, the financial industry has billions of dollars of transactions flowing between disparate systems every single day. And please don’t try to convince me that security of their financial data is not top of mind for them. Yet somehow they’ve managed to interoperate securely.


Speculation #3: “We’ve always done it this way.” I have trouble coming up with too many other players in the high tech world that aren’t itching to constantly innovate – from hardware (“Moore’s law”), to programming languages, to computers, to smartphone apps…you get the point.

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