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Meaningful Use Stage 3 drives more flexibility in how patients access data

Patient portals are essential communication tools for many providers and patients today. For example, more than 9.3 million patients have accounts through the Allscripts FollowMyHealth® patient engagement platform.

But a recent Nielsen survey found that the majority of Americans are not using digital technology to access their physicians – which is unlike how we approach other aspects of our lives, such as banking or making travel arrangements.

Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) can help address this challenge.  Because for the first time ever in the United States, Meaningful Use attestation requires providers to use APIs to better engage patients in their care and enable them to have more control over their health data.  APIs are those essential toolkits that enable different technologies to exchange data. They’ve hidden in the background of the industry’s patient engagement efforts until now.

Through its Meaningful Use Stage 3 (MU3) program, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) requires healthcare providers to have at least one application that enables patients to access their health information via an API from the organization’s electronic health record (EHR).

Specifically, the MU3 requirements regarding APIs cover four main areas:

Patient engagement

Make it easy for patients (or their representative) to request, use and organize health information. Display data in a way that is accessible regardless of age, technical ability and/or disability.

Patient selection

Patients should be able to request data, and the organization should be able to respond to the patient, using an open API.

Data category request

Patient requests for data must be in compliance with new data category standards from the ONC, and must be available for a specific date and specified date range.

All data request

Patient requests for data must be completed in the CCD template format, and patient requests for data completed in the C-CDA format for both a specific date and specified date range.*

CMS also requires that patients should be able to use any application that meets EHR specifications to access their health information. This opens the door to more third-party software developers who have not had the opportunity to participate in closed systems.

What will this mean for patients? We can expect more options in direct-to-consumer applications, especially Personal Health Record (PHR) apps. Apple’s App Store currently lists more than 65 PHR apps from third-party developers, and that number is sure to rise in the wake of these requirements. Patients will be able to use portals offered by providers, or select the PHR that works best for them.

It’s business as usual for Allscripts

These requirements might cause some EHR vendors to rethink their approach to third-party, patient-facing applications. But Allscripts has been building and supporting open APIs for nearly a decade. This new requirement is business as usual for us and I’m glad the government is making this requirement.

When Allscripts clients upgrade to MU3 versions of Allscripts Sunrise™, Allscripts TouchWorks® EHR and Allscripts Professional EHR™, they automatically get our open API technology, which includes FHIR-enabled endpoints. No additional contract or license, no separate installation or update is required.

Earlier this year, Allscripts launched a Developer Challenge to increase the number of patient-facing applications using Allscripts open APIs that meet the MU3 requirements. We had 22 companies submit applications for the challenge, and named first place winner Medlio and runner-up PatientLink Enterprises for their innovative solutions.

Successful patient engagement is about offering choice. Through our FollowMyHealth platform and the Allscripts Developer Program, we continue to work toward improving health care collaboratively. Whether it’s addressing MU3 requirements for patient-facing applications, or the next regulation that shapes health care, our solutions help position our clients and partners for success. To learn more, visit our Application Store to see the solutions we have available today or sign up to become a developer.

* CCD (Continuity of Care Document) and C-CDA (Consolidated-Clinical Document Architecture) are common, structured electronic data formats developed by Health Level Seven International (HL7), a nonprofit standards organization.

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