Healthcare IT vendor Cerner has launched an online platform enabling developers to build standards-based apps that integrate into diverse electronic health records systems.

The apps would use SMART on FHIR, a set of open specifications to integrate apps with electronic health records. The intent is for the apps to be used at the point of care, enabling physicians to access these apps directly within their workflow so they can more easily visualize, interact and transmit health data.

Developed with funding from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, the Substitutable Medical Applications and Reusable Technologies (SMART) leverages HL7’s emerging Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) standards to make it as easy as possible for app developers to get to data and for EHR vendors to implement a common application programming interface (API).

Called the Cerner Open Developer Experience, the website is meant to enhance SMART on FHIR app collaboration between third-party and client developers. Ultimately, the goal is to have the developer community write apps that can run anywhere in the healthcare system, while ensuring that that these apps are able to be added to or deleted from an EHR as easily as they can be on a mobile device.

“The purpose of the Developer Experience is to foster innovation so that innovators can test their ideas and applications using a sandbox that supports the SMART and FHIR standards,” says Bob Robke, vice president of interoperability for Cerner. “Where I see the industry going in terms of SMART on FHIR services are around clinical decision support. You can do a lot more with the designing of EHRs and other health IT systems for more in-depth workflow because you can ask for very specific pieces of information. It will revolutionize workflow around interoperable data that is [now] cumbersome.”

Using SMART on FHIR tools, developers can visit Cerner’s website and start coding immediately or browse apps that are currently available or in development. According to Robke, 15 new SMART on FHIR apps in development or in production that were developed prior to the rollout of the Open Developer Experience platform will be showcased in the Cerner booth at the HIMSS16 conference in Las Vegas.

John Halamka, MD, CIO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, notes that most of the major EHR vendors—including Cerner—are implementing the SMART API in their product releases as part of HL7’s Argonaut Project, aimed at accelerating development and adoption of FHIR.

“Cerner has taken a significant leadership role in the SMART on FHIR effort,” says Halamka. “I believe that modules and apps created by third parties that connect to EHR transactional systems will be increasingly important to enhance usability, functionality and interoperability. Cerner’s effort will educate the rest of the industry.”

In a major step toward industry-wide interoperability, SMART is being adopted across several major healthcare systems that are implementing SMART on FHIR apps on top of their EHR systems.

“It shows how obstacles crumble when we move to an open API approach aligned with the way that the rest of the Internet economy works,” comments Micky Tripathi, CEO of the Massachusetts eHealth Collaborative and manager of the Argonaut Project. “It also demonstrates even further that the private sector will now be the driver of nationwide interoperability. Meaningful Use was great at laying a foundation of EHRs and funding ‘basic research’ such as SMART, but now that it’s been jump-started, private sector interoperability initiative and motivation is taking off. Finally, it is a real testament to the innovation and leadership of Cerner and SMART.”

Kenneth Mandl, MD, director of the Computational Health informatics Program at Boston Children’s Hospital and chair of the SMART Advisory Committee points out that the SMART platform is composed of open standards, open source tools for developers building apps and a publicly accessible app gallery.

“Cerner’s focus on the developer experience will produce exactly what the SMART App Gallery needs—an activated and excited developer community with the tools to create SMART on FHIR substitutable apps that run across healthcare settings,” concludes Mandl.

“HL7 applauds the efforts of Cerner in creating the Open Developer Experience,” adds Charles Jaffe, MD, CEO of Health Level Seven International. “This project provides an easily accessible environment for the creation and enhancement of applications developed upon the HL7 FHIR platform. We anticipate the evolution of further implementation and testing programs, supported by the Argonaut Project and the FHIR Foundation.”

Register or login for access to this item and much more

All Health Data Management content is archived after seven days.

Community members receive:
  • All recent and archived articles
  • Conference offers and updates
  • A full menu of enewsletter options
  • Web seminars, white papers, ebooks

Don't have an account? Register for Free Unlimited Access