Why apps, APIs are key to helping patients share health records

Application programming interfaces and apps could help patients easily share their health data with providers and others--and there are no regulations preventing this from happening, Eric C. Schneider, M.D., Aneesh Chopra and David Blumenthal, M.D., write in a post at The Commonwealth Fund Blog.

Having patients be in control of their own data makes record sharing easier, they write, pointing to the ease with which people can file their taxes using online software because they have their financial information at hand.

"The same technology that enables your smartphone to pull sensitive financial data from your bank to pay your taxes ... can be applied to your healthcare records. More importantly, the regulatory path to health records sharing is now open," according to Schneider, senior vice president for Policy and Research at Commonwealth; Chopra, former U.S. chief technology officer and Blumenthal, former National Coordinator for Health IT.

Eric Topol, M.D., director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute, and Leonard J. Kish of Unpatient.org also have touted the need for patients to have control over their personal health info.

"It is critical for individuals to seize ownership of their data in order for the real benefits of a new, data-driven high-definition era of medicine to be actualized," Topol and Kish previously wrote in the journal Nature Biotechnology.

Schneider, Chopra and Blumenthal add that of the ways patients can share their records, the best way is "consumer-mediated" sharing, where the patient has the access to their record and can give it to whomever they want. However, convenience also has to play a role in that process.

That's where APIs and apps come in, they write.

If consumers demand ease of record sharing and access to such tools, then "the healthcare system must make it happen," they conclude.

Chopra has frequently spoken about that point in the past. For instance, during last year's Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT's annual meeting, he said demand and participation eventually will drive use of open public APIs for sharing information between entities. However, he added, first providers must be more willing to make the initial jump onto the bandwagon.

To learn more:
- here's the blog post