Apigee wants to enable interoperable ecosystem of health care apps

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Credit: NEC

The health system accounts for a huge proportion of global GDP, and yet when it comes to technology, it looks like something from the dark ages. Apigee wants to help change that.

At the recent I Love APIs conference that Apigee held in San Jose (disclosure, Apigee is a consulting client of Diversity Limited, but I had no insight into these announcements), the company announced Apigee Health APIx, a platform that is laser-focused on enabling digital solutions to be built on top of health data. The timing of the company was impeccable since the recently promulgated FHIR regulations (FHIR stands for Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources) dictates that personal health data should be available not only to the relevant health practitioners but also to the patients themselves. FHIR is a draft standard that describes data formats and APIs for exchanging electronic health records to enable healthcare companies to securely share data with each other and mobile apps and meet certification guidelines set by the U.S. government. As such, FHIR is going to rapidly accelerate the requirement and usage of health data-related APIs.

The idea of APIx is to help healthcare providers create a common integration layer that spans the gaps between core health information systems, and third party applications. Currently, an application wishing to integrate with a core system needs to be custom hard coded, APIx will create an abstraction layer much like that we see in other industries. In theory, integrating with a core healthcare system should be no harder than using Google Maps within an application development context. APIx consists of FHIR-specific APIs and a healthcare developer portal.

“APIs are the underlying connectors of our digital world and can accelerate innovation in nearly every industry,” said Chet Kapoor, CEO of Apigee. “With this new solution for healthcare providers, we are leveraging our core competencies in APIs to address a gap in the industry, enabling healthcare providers to move faster toward delivering on the promise of digital health -- open, personalized and consumer-driven.”

I spent time talking with Aashima Gupta, Apigee VP in charge of the company's healthcare initiative. She was excited about the launch of the platform and also the parallel development of FHIR. "Rising customer expectations, technology advances, and new policies are opening up opportunities in the healthcare industry, but there’s a need to remove the barriers that stifle innovation,” Gupta told me. “The momentum generated by Project Argonaut [a private sector health data initiative] and FHIR APIs, as well as the development acceleration possible with Apigee Health APIx, can be catalysts to help healthcare companies innovate faster."

At the conference, I also talked to Matias Klein, VP of Strategic Growth and Innovation at healthcare heavy-hitter, McKesson. “McKesson is working closely with partners that are accelerating the transition to a value-based world - where innovation and interoperability are essential,” said Klein said. “We’ve aligned with Apigee because we see their approach as offering a significant advancement in capability and one that can support many interoperability initiatives.”

Built on the foundations of APigee's Edge API platform, APIx covers the following component requirements:

  1. A healthcare-specific developer portal with FHIR API documentation and content
  2. A new open source project that provides a collection of pre-configured API proxies for 16 FHIR-ready APIs (Patient, Medication, Condition, Claims, and more)
  3. Pre-integrated OAuth security framework and other key functions
  4. Reference implementation of leading FHIR-enabled apps

Apigee Health APIx is available immediately as a packaged public cloud offering. In terms of how it can be used, one partner described a potential scenario:

“With the digital health APIs from Apigee, we can make FHIR a practical solution, which is a huge step forward for real-world healthcare data interoperability," said Brian Weiss, CEO of  Carebox Healthcare Solutions. “As Carebox plans to be both a client and a server in the Apigee digital health API ecosystem, clinical or claims data would flow automatically from any authorized Apigee-connected FHIR server into Carebox. Any web or mobile application designed to work with Apigee-connected FHIR services could consume Carebox data that originated with Medicare or VA online data, personal health devices, and provider or payer patient portals.”

The health sector is ripe for innovation, it is going to be fascinating to see what end-user solutions FHIR helps realize.

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