Small tech companies struggle to access APIs from bigger EHR vendors

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Many small health companies are experiencing difficulties accessing and using application programming interface (API) data from larger, more established electronic health record vendors, a new survey released this week by Health 2.0 finds.

The survey of 100 small vendors, supported by the California Health Care Foundation, found that the entities are having trouble integrating their data with the legacy, usually client-server based EHR vendors. Seventy percent said they have attempted an integration with an EHR vendor.

Epic and Allscripts had the highest percentage of integrations with 49 percent each. Allscripts and athenahealth, however, were viewed as more supportive of integration efforts than other vendors. Almost all vendors imposed fees for accessing the API, and most respondents felt that they needed some pressure from their provider customer in order to allow the integration to occur.

The respondents also reported that the quality of the EHR vendors’ APIs accessed was “mixed to weak.”

Of the 30 percent that have not integrated with an EHR, 48 percent said that their app didn’t need integration to add value. However, 90 percent said that the other medical data stored in the EHR could enrich the app or improve the user experience; the same percentage said that patients would benefit if clinicians had the EHR data.

Matthew Holt, co-chair of Health 2.0, noted that some of the integration problems were not solely the fault of the EHR vendors. For instance, he wrote, some respondents believed that their product didn’t offer enough value for EHR vendors--with other looming priorities such as Meaningful Use--to make the effort.

“[S]olving integration, using APIs or not, is going to reveal a bigger problem," Holt said. "Data quality and standardization is very poor, and for most of the client-server EMR vendors, each data model is different. So on a population level, data exchange may require much more work correcting data before it’s ready for analytics and treatment."