Availity Blog

Why APIs are a Critical Tool for Healthcare IT Innovation


2.09.2016 by ERIK AZAR – Technical Architect


Based on feedback from recent healthcare events, including last fall’s Health 2.0 and this month’s J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference, many expect 2016 to be a year of significant technology advancements. Whether it’s developing personalized medicine applications, executing on value-based payment initiatives, or addressing the challenges of consumerism, healthcare companies are focusing on innovation.

Much of the momentum in this space has been driven by government incentives offered to service companies, doctors, and hospitals. The 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), which included the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, expanded incentives to doctors and hospitals to adopt electronic health record (EHR) systems. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is intended to reduce healthcare spending and improve quality outcomes using multiple approaches, including the development of risk-based payment models, such as Accountable Care Organizations (ACO).

The communications challenge

As companies strive to develop innovative healthcare tools and applications, one of the biggest challenges they face is streamlining communications between health plans and providers. Today, two standards govern how data is exchanged, Health Level 7 (HL7) and X12 Version 5010. HL7 transfers clinical and administrative information between hospital information systems (HIS), while X12 is used to submit transactions to a health plan, such as patient eligibility, claims, and authorizations.

Unfortunately, the complexity associated with HL7 and X12 transactions can dramatically increase the amount of time it takes to develop a new application. At a time when speed to market is critical, companies are looking for ways to streamline this process.

APIs offer a simplified approach

Recognizing the need for rapid development, the healthcare industry has started to adopt Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). APIs provide a uniform way of working with resources and are easy to integrate with popular programming like JavaScript and other dynamic languages and frameworks. They allow different programs to share code for specific functions without having to share all of the code. APIs are what make it possible to cut and paste information between Microsoft Word and Excel or use a mobile application to interface with Facebook and Twitter.

To address the complexity of supporting HL7 and X12 transactions, Availity has developed its own set of APIs. As the nation’s largest real-time health information network, Availity connects 900,000 providers, 2,700 hospitals, 675 vendor partners and all health plans nationwide. Software developers no longer have to master the HL7 and X12 implementation guides. Instead, they can call the Availity APIs, and help get innovative products to the market faster.

Learn more

For a more technical discussion of Availity APIs, visit Erik Azar’s blog. Erik is a technical architect at Availity and an expert on healthcare APIs.

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