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What programmers think of Open

I could go on and on about the value of Open. I firmly believe that an Open approach is the only way healthcare IT companies can collaborate, innovate and advance health care.

But what does it mean to third-party developers? Do they believe in Open as much as I do?

I sat down recently with programmers from Shareable InkNew York PresbyterianeDoc4u and others. Part of a Unity training class, these folks are very proficient at using Allscripts Application Programming Interfaces (APIs).

We also talked about the value of Open. I asked, “How important is Open to you on a scale of 1 to 10?” Consensus answer: 11.

The most valuable aspect of Open platforms

The developer partners we work with have creative solutions – such as Shareable Ink’s special pen or eDoc4u’s risk assessment or a clinical decision support tool for cardiologists at the New Mexico Heart Institute. These are valuable tools in the hands of clinicians. These are apps that Allscripts would likely never develop.

But because we enable third-party developers to read and write data in and out of our electronic health records (EHRs), it speeds innovation. Solutions evolve faster and more effectively than if one company were to try to be all things to all caregivers.

As one programmer put it, the biggest advantage is that it makes these innovations portable. We can deploy solutions at clients faster and with a higher degree of certainty.

Another trait of truly Open companies

In my recent blog post, I recounted my checklist of the 6 traits of a truly Open company. While the students in this class agreed with these points, they added a seventh point: Can third parties do everything with the APIs?

Meaning, how wide is the gap between what Allscripts programmers can do, versus what developers outside the company can do with the API toolkit? I’d like to see that gap be as narrow as possible. They should be able to manipulate the data as much as we can. With our APIs, third-party partners can read and write virtually every category of clinical data – RXs, orders, results, vitals, documents, images — everything.

Learning from the visual effects industry

Creativity is the lifeblood of many industries. But none more so than visual effects for feature films. One of the programmers in the Unity class spent time in this industry. And he said there were no barriers. People learn from each other – even competitors – all the time.

Think about the innovation we’ve seen in visual effects over the years. Take movies like the first Star Wars or the first Superman, and put those films up against their most recent counterparts. The innovation is astounding.

Could health care move that fast? Could we “wow” our audiences with speed and creativity? Only if we are Open as an industry

Are you a programmer? What is most valuable to you about Open? How critical do you think an Open approach is to the future of health care?  Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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