API integration platform provider MuleSoft is creating new template products and leveraging their partnership networks to specifically support API workflow management for the healthcare industry. The move is part of a new vertical-focused approach and reflects some wider trends in the value APIs are playing across industry. Disclosure: Mulesoft is the parent company of ProgrammableWeb
While we often think of APIs as enabling the creation of Web and mobile apps, a large proportion of the business use cases of APIs are centered around integration of backend systems. As IT decisions now increasingly get made by sales, marketing, and other departments who are choosing their own SaaS and Web tools outside of official IT supplier processes, business units across an enterprise are needing to integrate data sources from a range of sources: internal legacy systems, new SaaS-collected data, sensors and device sources, and third party open and proprietary data such as weather or purchased datasets.
In fact, how to use APIs to enable integration workflows and secure data portability through various business systems and software is a growing trend in 2016. In research conducted by Andrew Cutler from SoftwareAG for his keynote at APIdays Australia, Cutler said his survey of business leaders across a range of roles and industry sectors all pointed to integration as being the number one IT obstacle.
MuleSoft recently joined the Argonaut Project, which is aimed at helping speed up development of the FHIR initiative. FHIR (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources) is an international approach to making sure health data and electronic health records will be in standardized formats around the globe so that patient healthcare and management is truly portable across national borders. In the United States, the U.S. Government is moving towards an enforcement model where healthcare organizations will be required to use the FHIR standards to enable electronic medical records to be shared, where this has been requested by the patient.
MuleSoft has also partnered with one large health organization — Epic — to create templates and end-to-end workflows that unlock data from a patient’s Electronic Medical Record and share it across the patient’s healthcare pathway. The templates save manual development work and leverage integration best practices. Key features include:
• Pre-built integration flows that read/write data from Epic, transform that data into HL7 FHIR and then expose that data via a well-defined RESTful API
• End-to-end reference implementation of the FHIR standard, including the following FHIR objects: Patient Demographics, Condition, Observation, Allergy, Medication and Scheduling
• Support for both Epic Bridges (HL7 v2) and Epic Interconnect (SOAP) interfaces.
“The core of the templates are built around the Electronic Medical Record,” explains David Chao, Director of Industry Solutions at MuleSoft. “Templates are built to allow the unlocking of a set of data objects across different clinical areas and then transforming that data and exposing that data via an API. So far, we have a set of six data objects including things link patient demographics, allergies, and medication: these are common objects that folks can access.”
Chao told ProgrammableWeb that the healthcare industry sees the interaction of a wide range of stakeholders, and each stakeholder wants to drive a closer relationship with their patients, which in turn requires access to data and APIs as a point of reference to enabling high quality care. He gives an example of a specialist doctor, a hospital discharge clinic and a patient’s health insurance or health maintenance organization. Over recent years, the healthcare sector has shifted from a reimbursement for fee-for-service to a model that focuses on fee-for-value, where each stakeholder engagement across the healthcare spectrum is part of a “wellness journey”.
Being able to ensure high quality care by understanding the patient’s complete health treatment picture, alongside regulatory requirements to meet forthcoming Meaningful Use Requirements (which will eventually introduce penalties for healthcare organizations that are unable to transact health data via API), are the two key drivers MuleSoft is seeing for interest in the new templates, which were discussed at the recent healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS16) Conference in Las Vegas.
“Meeting Meaningful Use obligations is critical,” says Chao. “But what do you do with it? How do you leverage that as a business process that drives innovation? And, extending on that, how do you leverage tech to create a more immersive and impactful influence on the wellness journey? Folks are seeing that they need to access data in an Electronic Medical Record, but they need to show it to another healthcare stakeholder in a different way, or share it with a third party.”
Chao says there are three main areas the API templates are initially starting to get used:
- “First is around population health management. Hospitals are looking to drive analysis and patient care at a population level by using big data analytics, and gaining new insights into the efficacy of different treatments. That requires transforming data from different sources, which is where the templates help.
- Secondly is patient engagement more broadly. Professionals are asking: How do I create a deeper relationship with a patient by sharing more data with them, and how do I receive more data from them (for example, from wearables and healthcare devices) to help guide lifestyle management issues?
- Finally, we are starting to see experiments with new technologies like telehealth and IoT so the industry can start thinking about their impact on care.”
In addition to the Epic EMR Integration, many of these features are also being driven through MuleSoft’s new partnership with SalesForce, where MuleSoft’s HITRUST-certified Anypoint Platform will bring data from multiple sources, including electronic medical records, medical devices, and wearables, into the Salesforce Health Cloud, a cloud-based patient relationship management solution that enables providers to gain a complete view of the patient with integrated data.
While the API-enabled workflow approach is a trend being experienced more widely already this year, the approach of API businesses focusing on specific industry verticals is a response to this trend that is also growing.
A number of stakeholders across the API landscape are moving into a more vertical-driven approach. The idea is that while the majority of API service providers — and API providers themselves — can offer a base core product that works generically, in order to maintain growth after an initial widespread audience has been reached, providers need to show they can customize their offerings to meet specific industry needs. Recent examples include the SimilarWeb service — whose API was singled out for its fast growing developer adoption last year. Now, they are looking to continue that growth by showing how their generic product, including their API tools, can be used in specific industries such as insurance, travel and e-commerce. Global conference series APIdays, has chosen to focus on specific industry vertical in order to show how APIs can disrupt and transform any enterprise, by creating vertical-specific events such as their banking and fintech event in London last September and their upcoming heavy industry and government-platform focused event in Finland in May. Even the Salesforce Health Cloud -- having attracted integration partnerships from API management companies like Mulesoft and Apigee -- is an example of an API-enabled business seeking to show it has the vertical chops to work within specific industries. At a certain stage of growth, API businesses need to then move from a ‘this works for all industry’ back to showing an understanding of key, particular industry sectors.
“You see this across the enterprise software space,” says Chao. “We’re seeing industry as a lens for go-to-market. Having an industry lens isn’t just about carrying out a communication strategy that speaks their language. We are now seeing the need for a separate lens. It is the same core product, but we are adding a lens on top for industry-specific connectivity, that recognizes things like industry specific certification and regulation. Across a range of industries throughout 2016, we will be developing and innovating in this area.”