Accelerating Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) for Scientific Discovery

The broad adoption of electronic health record (EHR) technology across the United States has enabled digitization of health information and relevant healthcare services. However, the goal of seamlessly sharing electronic health information among patients, providers, and researchers has not been fully achieved.

To fully realize the potential of EHRs to improve care and accelerate scientific discovery, it is critical to develop standardized methods to enhance communication and interaction between different health IT systems and mobile applications (apps) used to store and maintain health information.

To that end, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) is driving an effort to develop and standardize APIs, which will help reduce the effort it takes to access, exchange, and use electronic health information.

ONC’s Cures Act Final Rule (Final Rule) requires open APIs, which encourages secure access to data. The Final Rule requires that health information technology (IT) developers use standardized APIs, and it sets standards for transparency, allowable fees, and appropriate business practices to encourage competition. ONC’s API certification criteria for EHRs are designed to enable access to health information for clinical and patient-facing uses, as well as research.

The Accelerating APIs for Scientific Discovery project will help accelerate the understanding and use of standardized APIs and healthcare apps by focusing on:

  • How individuals can use API-enabled apps to securely access their EHR data;
  • How APIs can improve health data access for researchers;
  • How data aggregators, data integrators, and app developers can drive innovation and competition in the marketplace through APIs; and
  • How providers can use APIs to further support care.

Learn More

Consumer Perspectives

To learn more about concerns that impact consumer behaviors towards APIs and apps as part of their health care read the Accelerating API Adoption: Consumer Perspectives report. Learn how these findings can inform the healthcare API and app ecosystem in our recent blog post.

What Is an API?

APIs are tools that support interoperability by allowing different software programs to easily communicate with one other and to share information. If you have ever used a website or mobile app on your computer, smartphone, or tablet to purchase a flight or pay a bill, you have probably used an API.

Sync for Science

In line with its objective to improve interoperability, ONC supports Sync for Science (S4S), a public-private collaboration to develop a simplified, scalable, and secure way for individuals to access and share their EHR data with researchers, using a third-party app. S4S has already helped accelerate and guide national priorities for patient-led data access and sharing through APIs.

Content last reviewed on November 24, 2020
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