The Friday Five – 5 Key Themes from the ONC API Showcase
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A recent ONC virtual event, Accelerating APIs in Healthcare: A Year in Review and Momentum for 2021, featured more than 1,000 viewers and 40 speakers with one clear, consistent message: big things will come in 2021.
The event showcased and set the stage for how application programming interfaces (APIs) in healthcare will connect clinicians to better data, improve the patient experience, and empower the public to take more control of their healthcare. It’s hard to boil down four hours of back-to-back content into just a few key themes. However, this week’s Friday Five offers a summary by ONC’s Steven Posnack (@HealthIT_Policy) and Stephen Konya (@StephenKonya) of what appeared to be the top five key takeaways or “themes” from the day.
Support for patient facing apps continues to mature
If you have a smart phone, your chances of being able to seamlessly access, review, and share your health data with that device has greatly increased during 2020. There were updates from Apple on their efforts to empower patients using iOS devices and similarly by The Commons Project who has been working on the CommonHealth app for Android devices.
Additionally, it’s becoming more and more clear that the momentum behind clinically-focused apps is building. During the event, MedStar’s Mobilizing Million Hearts app, and CRISP’s HIE InContext app were featured. Both of these projects were developed and launched with support from ONC, are now open-sourced, and available for others to implement.
Clinical trials and research opportunities are being greatly enhanced by leveraging FHIR APIs
Federal government presenters provided examples of how they were leveraging Health Level Seven (HL7®) Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR®) APIs to advance the field of precision medicine and enhance their other research and clinical trial related efforts. AHRQ highlighted several of their research related challenge competitions and initiatives, while the NIH shared more specific use case examples where they’re leveraging FHIR, such as extracting clinical data for research with a RedCap extension, Phenopackets on FHIR, and their work on the Value Set Authority Center (VSAC) on FHIR. Additionally, the VA showcased its Clinical Trial Selector app, which empowers 9+ million veterans and 50+ million CMS beneficiaries to search for clinical trials powered by API connectivity.
APIs are increasing our ability to effectively respond to public health threats
Representatives from the CDC and US Digital Service (USDS) highlighted two key initiatives that were launched in response to the current pandemic. The CDC’s Pandemic Ready Interoperability Modernization Effort (PRIME), a new multi-year collaboration with the USDS, is being designed to strengthen data quality and information technology systems in state and local health departments. Also featured was the CDC’s eCR NOW FHIR app, which can be implemented by EHR developers, health systems, and third parties to meet their electronic case reporting needs.
Collaboratives are leading the way
Although the afternoon was filled with references to collaboration and partnerships, there were two key areas of collaboration where progress has been made in the past year. First, organizations like the CARIN Alliance and Graphite Health announced their commitments to bring stakeholders together to address the marketplace friction that often stifles innovation and data sharing in healthcare.
Additionally, there were presentations on how CMS, CAQH, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) have stepped up to work with others to advance provider directories. Specifically, CAQH shared details about their National Directory for FHIR Endpoints Project, while RWJF provided an update on new work launched through Schema.org.
And in the same spirit of working together, ONC announced the launch of Project US@ – a collaboration between ONC and the healthcare standards community – to create a unified and consistent way in 2021 to represent a patient’s physical address across many of the transactions used in healthcare.
Cloud vendors are still committed to advancing interoperability in healthcare
During the showcase the top cloud technology companies provided an update on their commitments to support healthcare interoperability. Representing their collective stance was Jason Oxman, President and CEO of ITI (the Information Technology Industry Council). Following his remarks, each cloud vendor shared brief updates on their latest efforts. This included representatives from Microsoft, Google, IBM, Salesforce, and Amazon. Furthermore, Google made news by announcing the launch of their new Healthcare Interoperability Readiness Program, and Amazon has also followed up with a launch of their own, Amazon HealthLake.