Collecting healthcare data can be a challenge for hospitals and organisations. Multiple ecosystems need to integrate information from internal and external sources that leverage different industry-standard formats.

In 2019, a survey that looked at the challenges of sharing data between these systems found that one-third of hospitals considered their efforts lacking. Most of them agreed they had become familiar with the convenience of online services like Amazon, which makes information readily available using a friendly interface.

To bridge the gap between applications and healthcare systems, developers created APIs (or Application Programming Interfaces) specific for medical management.

Healthcare APIs offer several advantages for digital healthcare. For instance, they can integrate data systems and ensure better interoperability. They can also secure the storage and transfer of sensitive electronic healthcare data such as patient records (EHR), maintaining HIPAA and GDPR compliance. And they can help local and third-party developers quickly create and develop applications. 

 

Google Healthcare API

Healthcare APIs are gaining momentum. Last April, Google announced the launch of its Cloud Healthcare API. This service facilitates data exchange between different healthcare applications built on Google Cloud using AI and machine learning. 

Google’s Healthcare API provides an ideal environment for managing and scaling enterprise-level solutions. It supports popular healthcare data standards and can connect scalable analytics data with BigQuery and Cloud Dataflow. The API also offers the privacy and security features included in Google Cloud and can quickly adapt to new regulations and consent models. 

Microsoft’s AccountGuard cybersecurity program and Amazon’s AWS Diagnostic Development initiative are actively benefiting from Google’s Healthcare API for COVID-19 diagnostics. With the ability to manage patient data without silos and with appropriate consents, the API promises to boost the next generation of digital healthcare solutions worldwide. 

 

An Ecosystem of Applications

Leveraging centralised Cloud Healthcare APIs means that organisations and healthcare developers can build and quickly deploy applications in a shared environment. Because the ecosystem uses open standards, official and third-party apps can be instantly integrated across multiple sites and potentially hundreds of hospitals. 

This ecosystem of applications is at the centre of healthcare data interoperability and covers various data types. For example, it can support DICOM data, HL7v2 messages, and FHIR records. If different developers are working with distinct formats, the new tools can convert data to open standards and ingest it through the existing APIs.

One of the keys to promoting these developments is offering users the ability to leverage de-identified data to apply their findings at scale.

 

Data Privacy

One of the critical components of cloud healthcare APIs is data privacy. Cloud Healthcare APIs leverage authentication and multi-layer security tools to ensure robust and compliant systems. These include encryption and cloud audit loggings. 

The API can detect sensitive data such as protected health information and use a de-identification transformation to obscure, mask, or delete the data. Google’s Healthcare API stores the datasets in locations that match distinct geographical regions. All data actions are tracked and monitored for more robust data security as well. 

There are some privacy and security challenges to consider when incorporating Healthcare APIs. The API needs protection with up-to-date versions of Transport Layer Security (TLS) or other cipher suites that safeguard transit data. There should also be policies that establish and verify users before granting credentials. Although managed APIs are secure, patients must not share their health data with third-party apps that could expose them to a breach of privacy. 

 

Use cases

Cloud healthcare APIs can be particularly useful in clinical, research, and clerical scenarios. One of the most significant promises is the possibility of applying machine learning to medical imaging. There have been several demonstrations of the advantages of using machine learning to make predictions based on medical records. For example, hospitals have leveraged it for sepsis and the recurrence of breast cancer. 

Systems like Google Cloud ML can run large datasets of medical images and provide fast and highly accurate results. The results are particularly useful for diagnosing diseases such as diabetic retinopathy and allowing patients to receive tailored treatments. By identifying certain risks, hospitals can also reduce unnecessary readmissions and mortality rates. 

Healthcare APIs are used to run clinical research by collecting and analysing large-scale hospital statistics and tracking treatments. For instance, experts can integrate them with electronic record integration engines, such as Cloverleaf, with open-source adapters that send and receive HL7v2 messages through HTTPS. When new data is received, the system sends a notification to the authorised applications directly to doctors at the point of care. 

 

Cloud APIs and healthcare transformation

One of the common issues healthcare organisations have is the distribution of data into different silos. Specialists know this data can help make predictions and improve patient care across a hospital network. The problem is that they have trouble building their data platforms to make this exchange happen. This is why Cloud Healthcare APIs are promising to impact digital healthcare significantly. 

Cloud Healthcare APIs can provide patients’ views across a broad population and allow developers to work on better solutions continuously. Without a doubt, we are at the door of a digital healthcare transformation that will have a global impact on disease prevention, diagnostics, and treatment. 


Fluffy Spider Technologies is at the forefront of the “Digitisation of Health” surge

We create commercial software that manages data streams from cameras, medical devices and sensors, integrating to health record systems. We can help with eMR interchange using available APIs or develop custom healthcare APIs.

To learn more about our capabilities and solutions, please get in touch.

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