The first open application programming interface (API) software platform has been certified using HL7’s emerging Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) standard to meet Stage 3 Meaningful Use interoperability requirements.

This distinction belongs to OpenAPI from Carefluence, a Michigan-based company that offers software solutions and technology integration services to electronic health record vendors and healthcare providers.

Drummond Group, which is authorized by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT to test software for compliance with Meaningful Use interoperability requirements, has certified that the Carefluence OpenAPI software module can be deployed alongside existing EHR systems, providing functionality that enables open access to EHRs and lets providers receive incentive payments from the federal government.

“This is the first open API that is fully standards-compliant based on FHIR,” says Adam Boris, an advisor to the board of Carefluence. “We offer a module that can be a drop-in to any existing EHR to provide that standards-based interface.”

According to Boris, Carefluence adopted as early as 2014 the FHIR standard, an interoperability framework that leverages the latest web standards. The FHIR API and core data services specification are designed to enable information sharing between EHRs and other health IT systems.

Carefluence contends that their OpenAPI is a “comprehensive, ‘plug-and-play’ software solution” that fully complies with the FHIR standard, “which describes data formats and elements for exchange of health information across disparate EHR systems.” The company says that any EHR vendor can license Carefluence’s OpenAPI and offer it to their customers “with the assurance that their product will be Meaningful Use compliant, avoiding the costly internal development of a custom open API solution.”

APIs were included in the final Meaningful Use Stage 3 rule, requiring certified EHR technology to provide an API through which patient information can be viewed, downloaded, and transmitted to a third party. In addition, APIs are part of the 2015 Edition of Health IT Certification Criteria, which requires certified EHRs to demonstrate the ability to provide a patient-facing app access to the Common Clinical Data Set via an API.

“We know that a lot of existing EHR vendors are struggling to keep up with all the changes from Meaningful Use,” Boris adds. “Every EHR system used by doctor’s offices and health systems that want to be Meaningful Use certified are going to have to have an API. They can create a proprietary API if they want to, but that will be costly in terms of software development and runs contrary to the purpose and spirit of what the industry is trying to be accomplish nationally with open APIs.”

HL7 CEO Chuck Jaffe, MD, congratulated Carefluence for their distinction in being the first open API platform to be certified using the FHIR standard to meet Stage 3 MU interoperability requirements. He observes that this milestone is just the first of many to come for a host of vendors and healthcare organizations working towards this goal.

“There are dozens, maybe hundreds, of entities doing the same thing,” Jaffe says. “The process has been made dramatically easier by the work of the Argonaut Project.”

The Argonaut Project is an industry-wide effort to accelerate the development and adoption of FHIR. Major EHR vendors and healthcare providers have joined forces as part of this initiative to refine the profiles and implementation guides, which are the “rules of the road” for FHIR.

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