Electronic health record systems, also called EHRs, are the source of truth for data associated with the delivery of patient care. As such, anyone wanting to build tools for health providers and administrators that rely on accessing patient data or updating clinicians as they do their day-to-date work need to connect to these systems to pull (read) and push (write) data.
These connections are called integrations. They allow software from a health technology vendor to pull information about a patient within a health system. The kind of data available when building an integration can vary, but typically there will be demographic information, like a patient’s address or date of birth, billing and diagnostic codes, lab test results, and notes that the doctor writes about the care they provide.
Opening the Data Pipes
EHR vendors have traditionally been reluctant to provide full read and write access to 3rd party developers as part of an integration. Often getting cleared for read access is easier because having write access can potentially disrupt workflows that have been carefully crafted by the health provider and the EHR vendor.
Recently there has been substantial pressure placed on EHR vendors to facilitate integrations with 3rd party developers. Many see these integrations as a critical component in advancing the state of technology in healthcare and so the federal government has begun to examine how they can encourage these EHR vendors to loosen the restrictions around integration.