Before the global COVID-19 pandemic, one of the big pieces of healthcare news was the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) for Health Information Technology proposal of a rule that would affect how electronic health records (EHRs) should be handled. Specifically, this rule would require vastly increased interoperability from healthcare companies, a change that few of them are currently prepared to handle.

Read on to learn more about what the ONC’s rule may mean for your company as well as how to prepare for major changes to the healthcare technology industry that are coming down the pike.

Where Are We Right Now?

Currently, a lot of healthcare data is siloed. So if someone from North Carolina breaks their leg skiing in Colorado and ends up in the hospital, the Coloradoan hospital has to get the NC system to send over the patient’s healthcare information, as opposed to the hospital (or patient) accessing it themselves. Even in terms of preventative care, patients are often unable to access their own electronic health records (EHR), and when they are, aggregating their EHR across different healthcare systems can be a struggle.

This disconnect puts up barriers to the smooth flow of important and sometimes life-saving data, which the ONC views as a problem.

Where Are We Headed (and Why)?

If approved, the ONC’s rule will require EHR companies to comply with two significant changes to the industry. First, they will have to play nicely with third-party apps so that patients will be able to easily and securely access their health records from their personal devices. (So if our poor North Carolinian wants to pull up their health records while on the phone with their insurance company, for example, they can do so.) 

Secondly, the rule will prohibit EHR companies from inhibiting the flow of information between health information technology systems or to patients. If Hospital A uses Epic while Hospital B uses Cerner, both hospitals will have to get along.

This rule—if implemented—would increase innovation and competition between EHR companies and vendors, helping to improve the American healthcare system. It would also ensure that patients and their healthcare providers would have secure and seamless ways to access their healthcare information electronically. However, for everything to work as it should, there’s going to have to be a paradigm shift in the way the industry works with patient data (and APIs are likely to play a big role in that change).

How Do We Prepare for the Future?

To safely and securely integrate all of these various platforms and apps, EHR companies will need to rely on APIs, and yet far too many are wary about embracing the changes such a move will require. Here are a few reasons they may want to reconsider.

Get on the Highway

We know that there can be a bit of hesitancy to the tech world when it comes to adapting to new standards. You’ve invested plenty of time, money, and training into using the system and setup that you have right now, and there’s no sense in rocking the boat if you don’t have to, right? Metaphorically speaking, we’re talking about the scenic route compared to the highway.

Sure, the scenic route may be winding and take a bit longer, but the API highway is scary. Changing up the way you do things requires specific scenario testing, knowledge of change management, and more. Whether it’s learning to drive on the highway or correctly creating and implementing APIs, mistakes can be costly, but once you know what you’re doing, you’ll wonder how you ever operated any other way. Someone who knows the ropes (like an experienced consultant) can help you get there.

Your Future Self Will Thank You

Early in the 2010s, point-to-point connections were the hit thing. Look at them now, however, and they’re a spaghettified mess that’s frustrating to maintain and support. They’re expensive, fragile, and, worst of all, inefficient. Think—if you could go back and change your strategy with P2P connections to do them more efficiently from the beginning, who wouldn’t take that chance? 

As it stands right now, the API ecosystem is in a similar place.  So why in the world would you choose to use a failed strategy that you know won’t work when you could succeed from the very beginning? Just like a well-timed note, a good healthcare technology consultant can help you avoid the mistakes you might have made and set you up for success.

Current Systems Can’t Handle the Challenge

Knowing that they’ll need to comply with the changing EHR landscape, there are a few companies out there who are willing to roll with the punches and start taking advantage of APIs in the here and now. Problem is, they plan to do so with their current system, which is a less-than-great idea. Why? Because there’s a difference between “Able to do the work” and “Able to do the work well.

In other words, trying to build an API inside your current platform is like trying to cut down a tree with a handsaw—you can do it, but it’s much more efficient to use a chainsaw. Similarly, when it comes to building the APIs you’re going to need in the future, having someone who knows what they’re doing will help you save money, time, and plenty of headaches. 

Whether the ONC’s EHR-handling rule change takes place tomorrow or next year, it pays to stay ahead of the curve, and you’re going to need two things to get you there: APIs and somebody who knows how to make them work best for your business. Luckily, we can put both of those at your disposal.

Surety Systems has an expansive network of senior-level consultants who are not only familiar with API best practices but can also handle the day-to-day integrations between your many clinical systems. From Cloverleaf to Rhapsody, we have you covered. And if your healthcare technology needs include managing your HCM, ERP, or CRM platform, we’ve got your back there as well. Contact us today to get started.