Should You Invest in the Google Cloud Healthcare API?

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Today’s world is increasingly digital and interconnected, with data and information shared across a range of devices, applications, and services. To enable applications to communicate with one another, individuals and organizations often rely on an application programming interface (API).

APIs act as translators between devices and software solutions, allowing them to interact and communicate with one another. For example, whenever you use an application to check the weather, pay a bill, compare prices, or purchase products, you do so through an API.

Here’s how it works. An application connects to the internet and sends data to a server. The server retrieves the data, interprets it, takes any necessary actions, and sends the data back to your device. Then, the application interprets the data and presents it to you in an easily understandable way.

Consider a boutique clothing shop that displays items only in one size and color. To get your size and desired color, you must ask a salesperson. Then they go into the back room to check inventory, but customers are not allowed in the storage area. In this example, the salesperson is the API, acting as the messenger to deliver your request and bring back the item you requested.

What Are Cloud APIs?

Similar to how APIs allow one program to make its data and functionality available for other programs to use, a cloud API allows the end user to interact with a cloud provider’s services and applications. Numerous cloud platforms use APIs to enable user-facing operations, including Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services (AWS), and Google Cloud Platform.

A cloud API connects users to cloud services and facilitates interoperability of applications. When a cloud provider creates a service or application, they also create APIs that allow other software solutions to communicate with that service or application.

How Are APIs Used in Healthcare?

In the healthcare industry, APIs help improve and streamline care delivery in a number of ways. Patients can use applications such as Health (Apple), CommonHealth (Android) and iBlueButton to view and manage their healthcare data.

These applications collect health data across the continuum of care and store it in a single, secure location. This makes it easier for individuals to share health information with their healthcare team. For example, using the Apple Health app lets users connect securely to their health systems to download health records and share health data with providers.

Heath organizations also benefit from the ability of APIs to manage the flow of information and optimize interoperability. The goal of interoperability is to provide seamless access, exchange, and integration of health data across different applications, devices, and information systems.

Using APIs, healthcare providers can transfer data between electronic health records (EHRs), informational systems, networks, healthcare applications, and devices. For example, a healthcare facility could track changes in a patient’s health data through API-enabled remote patient monitoring. Remote patient monitoring benefits post-operative patients, aging populations, chronic-condition patients, and patients in areas with limited access to healthcare facilities. These technologies can be integrated via an API with a health organization’s EHR system to exchange information and eliminate data silos.

What Is the Role of APIs in the Continuity of Care?

The Office for the National Coordinator (ONC) for Health Information Technology’s Cures Act Final Rule outlines the importance of utilizing APIs in healthcare. In 2015, the ONC set forth API certification criteria for EHRs to enable patients and healthcare providers to access and share important health information more easily. In 2020, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services published the Interoperability and Patient Access final rule to facilitate seamless data transmission in the healthcare industry.

Different healthcare organizations may use different EHR solutions (a single organization may even use multiple EHRs across individual departments), which spreads clinical data across many disconnected data silos. APIs act as the connector between these disparate data systems, making it easier for clinicians to exchange information. This helps improve continuity of care because the APIs facilitate robust, bidirectional patient-record exchange.

For example, consider a patient who comes to the emergency room and is transferred to the operating room (OR) for surgery. If the hospital has distinct EHR systems for the emergency room (ER), OR, anesthesiology department, and recovery unit, these disconnected data points could negatively impact the patient’s outcome. APIs help close the gap in how patient data is transmitted, received, and processed to improve outcomes and reduce re-admissions.

What Is a Cloud Healthcare API?

APIs play an important role in data exchange between an organization’s internal applications, electronic health records (EHRs), and other tools.

Cloud healthcare APIs act as a connection between on-premises data-systems and cloud-based applications and services. Health systems and providers turn increasingly to cloud healthcare APIs to connect and share data across different sources more efficiently.

Even in the best of circumstances, collecting data is often a challenge due to the range of entities within the healthcare system. Cloud healthcare APIs serve as the link that connects existing care systems with cloud-based applications. This makes it easier for providers and organizations to compile data across different sources and share data with patients and other medical professionals.

Growth in the Cloud Healthcare API Market

While APIs have been a requirement for health IT systems since 2015, the COVID-19 pandemic increased their adoption across healthcare organizations. The global API market size was valued at $210.9 million in 2019 and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 6.3% through 2027.

The integration of APIs into EHRs can improve patient outcomes, increase patient satisfaction and simplify access and sharing of health data. In addition to streamlining healthcare operations, there are federal rules accelerating the need for APIs. For example, the ONC’s information blocking provisions went into effect in June of 2020. According to these provisions, health IT developers must provide APIs that allow patients to access, exchange, and use their health information.

Concurrent with ONC provisions, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) published Interoperability and Patient Access rules for using APIs to expand data sharing and transparency. These provisions apply to CMS-regulated payers, including Medicare Advantage (MA), Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Plan (CHIP), and Qualified Health Plan (QHP) issuers on the Federally-facilitated Exchanges (FFEs). These rules include:

  • Patient Access APIs. Requires healthcare providers to give patients access to information to ensure they understand the prior-authorization process and its impact on their care.
  • Provider Access APIs. Requires building and maintaining payer-to-provider data-sharing of claims and encounters, as well as pending and active prior-authorization decisions for both individual and group patient requests.
  • Requires the implementation of processes that make documentation and prior authorization more transparent and efficient. One example would be a document requirement lookup service API that can be integrated with a provider’s EHR, allowing providers to locate prior-authorization requirements within the provider’s workflow.

What Is the Google Cloud Healthcare API?

There are multiple Google Cloud APIs, including APIs for data analytics, machine learning, networking, and more. Some cloud APIs are customized solutions for specific industries, including healthcare.

In 2018, Google launched its Cloud Healthcare API (also known as the Cloud Healthcare API) to address challenges related to interoperability in healthcare data. Pricing for Cloud Healthcare API varies depending on requirements, including:

  • Data storage
  • De-identification operations
  • Network utilization
  • Request volume
  • Consent and privacy management
  • Extract, transform, and load (ETL) operations
  • Notification volume

Originally available as an early access release, the Cloud Healthcare API saw initial success as a core component of the Mayo Clinic’s digital transformation by enabling the storage and interoperability of the hospital’s data to improve patient outcomes and clinician experiences.

In 2020, Google released its Cloud Healthcare API to the industry at-large in response to the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on healthcare and life-sciences organizations. The Cloud Healthcare API acts as a managed solution for storing and retrieving health data housed in the Google Cloud Platform, connecting existing care systems and applications stored on Google Cloud.

Increasingly, healthcare is moving to the cloud, with over 83% of healthcare organizations already using cloud services, and the market for healthcare cloud computing should grow from $28.1 billion in 2020 to $64.7 billion by 2025.

Leveraging the API allows healthcare systems to unlock new capabilities for application development, machine learning, and data analysis. The Cloud Healthcare API uses a number of key features that are critical to bridging gaps between cloud applications, care systems, and patient/provider channels. Examples include:

  • Standards conformance. This API is comprised of three modality-specific interfaces that implement healthcare data standards—Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR), Health Level Seven International Version 2 (HL7v2), and Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine (DICOM).
  • Privacy regulations compliance. The API supports compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and other privacy standards.
  • Data location control. This API gives users the option to select storage locations for specific datasets based on currently available locations within Google Cloud’s regional structure.
  • Data security: The API’s security model is based on the Google Identity and Access Management (IAM) system.
  • Bulk import/export. The DICOM and FHIR modalities of the API support bulk data import and export within the Google Cloud Storage system.

Why Should You Invest in the Google Cloud Healthcare API?

Google’s Cloud Healthcare API has three key benefits that are integral to the success of healthcare systems:

  • Security.
  • Data handling.
  • Interacting with data for analytics and machine learning.

Let’s take a closer look at each.

Security

Backed by Google’s privacy and security features for the cloud, the Cloud Healthcare API supports HIPAA compliance and is in scope for ISO/IEC 27001 compliance. This helps keep healthcare data assets secure and confidential.

Data theft is pervasive in the healthcare space, with a 25% year-over-year increase in data breaches reported in 2020. The Cloud Healthcare API leverages encryption, robust authentication tools, and identity and access management policies to maintain data privacy.

Data handling

The Cloud Healthcare API also makes it easy to onboard patient data, eliminate data silos, and demonstrate compliance and transparency. Data interoperability allows healthcare systems to exchange and use information efficiently within and across organizational boundaries.

Because APIs are the points of communication between systems, they simplify interoperability to aggregate and merge patient data from separate data sources. This scattering of patient information stems from the disparate nature of healthcare delivery, with different healthcare facilities and practices saving and storing patient data based on the care provided. Google’s Cloud Healthcare API can scale to handle thousands of requests per second, generating high performance even when accessing large data volumes.

Analytics and machine learning

When it comes to analytics and AI applications, Google’s API de-identifies data to remove or obscure information such as protected health information (PHI). De-identified data can then be used for machine learning modules, analysis and training, and sharing with non-privileged parties. The Cloud Healthcare API also helps providers interact with data from a range of systems and inputs, such as patient registries, medical images, clinical data, provider notes, and EHRs.

Health data is stored in datasets and stores, each of which is associated with certain data types, including FHIR (clinical resources), HL7v2 (clinical event messages), and DICOM (medical imaging data). The API also utilizes pre-built connectors that provide a pathway to analytics and machine learning. Examples of this include the ability to:

How Parallels Desktop for Chrome OS Benefits Healthcare Providers

A modern health system requires modern solutions. One example is the Google Cloud Healthcare API. Another is Parallels® Desktop for Chrome OS.

Parallels Desktop for Chrome OS provides quick access to legacy and full-featured Windows applications, such as Word and Excel, locally on Chrome Enterprise devices—even offline. This enables healthcare employees to access the tools they need easily, with applications deployed directly within the Parallels Desktop infrastructure.

Parallels Desktop for Chrome OS also reduces the burden on IT teams while helping minimize security concerns by leveraging Google’s advanced security, audit, and management standards, backed by Parallels unique cross-platform expertise.

With Chrome devices, files are stored and shared in Google Drive, and the software runs via cloud-based applications. This allows healthcare providers to access their work on the go, freeing them from the time wasted running back to their office or a dedicated workstation to access patient information.

Finally, Parallels Desktop for Chrome OS makes it easy to switch between Chrome OS and Windows without needing to reboot the device. Users can open files within Chrome OS using Windows applications and even print from Windows applications via printers connected to the Chrome device.

Learn more about the benefits of Parallels Desktop for Chrome OS for healthcare providers.

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