To welcome a patient to a new medical practice, sourcing their medical history can be achieved through traditional means. These measures involve asking directly through paper forms, phone calls, in-person registration, or getting past records via fax or mail from previous health facilities. But while these options generate the necessary information, they also leave a lot to chance.
For starters, patients and information accuracy are not a guaranteed pairing — forgotten medication or past hospitalizations, for example, can complicate care continuity. Likewise, poor standardization, incompatible IT software, plus data privacy concerns are just some of the challenges of digital data exchange, necessary for collaboration between different health organizations.
By integrating Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) into the patient onboarding process, providers have the edge over traditional means, as these tools establish higher precision for understanding past health encounters, while granting better insight into future treatment approaches. This post will explore the power of APIs for streamlining the patient onboarding process.
Patient onboarding is the process of getting a new intake registered and oriented with a health practice. For most practitioners, this is a chance to make a good first impression and display efficiency in handling new cases.
For onboarding best practices, portals where patients can complete registration forms, provide personal information, and upload required documents before the visit, are a popular choice for the sign-up process. Other options like mobile applications with features permitting convenient registration, appointment scheduling, and secure messaging are also go-to strategies to enhance the onboarding flow.
However, in conjunction with APIs, these programs are a provider's best bet for kicking off the treatment process. APIs gather valuable health information necessary for care continuity, and promote the safe and secure exchange of this information.
An application programming interface is a tool that software programs employ to communicate with each other. In the healthcare context, an API allows everything from Electronic Health Records (EHRs), laboratory information systems, imaging systems, and telehealth platforms to communicate and exchange information.
Because these data transfers have become a staple of the health ecosystem, it’s easy to overlook the fact that data silos, incompatible IT systems, and other exchange hurdles frequently prevented the easy exchange of clinical information.
Recognizing the importance of seamless communication, regulations like the “certification criteria” of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) stipulate using APIs as part of the EHR systems. Others such as the 2021 Interoperability and Patient Access Final Rule mandate that health practitioners access and readily exchange patient information directly from clinical record systems.
Established by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), all CMS-regulated payers follow this directive by making health information available via application programming interfaces. Using APIs, providers, patients, and even health applications can freely retrieve valuable patient information.
A healthcare organization will typically need a patient’s basic demographic info to fire up the API process. Using this patient’s name, date of birth, address, and/or other demographic information, the provider facility can access a vast healthcare data networks such as CommonWell and Carequality to piece together the patient’s medical history, using a tool such as Metriport's Medical API.
APIs observe a simple and structured process for the onboarding workflow, and it all begins with a query between software systems. This query will usually include specifics on the type of data needed from the recipient’s server, narrowing down the information to be retrieved. API’s can connect to several systems, from EHRs and Health Information Exchanges (HIEs), to insurance databases and even wearable devices.
This connection between different systems is possible thanks to industry-wide standards like REST and FHIR. These common standards make it possible for providers to extract important details like the patients current medication dosage or previous prescribing doctors, information necessary to boost care continuity.
Metriport’s Medical API is in-line with established interoperability standards, permitting health data access and retrieval across multiple IT structures and health organizations. The API simply requires providers to initiate a query that polls HIEs for complete patient medical histories.
APIs are a game changer in the healthcare industry, helping to streamline remote patient monitoring, appointment booking, payments, and the entire onboarding process. Organizations with integrated API structures for the patient intake process enjoy a number of benefits, ultimately improving patient care and administrative function across the facility.
With access to a patient’s full medical history, practitioners can map out a personalized treatment journey, reducing wait times, while encouraging doctors to spend more time interacting with the patient. For instance, a provider can assess and recommend target HbA1c levels for a hypertensive patient from reviewing past encounters before an initial consultation.
In addition to reducing manual errors and saving time and resources, APIs are also promoting interoperability across health systems. And while APIs trade vast amounts of sensitive patient data, regulations like the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) preserve valuable personal health information, promoting patient safety and limiting data breaches.
By integrating APIs into the patient onboarding process, new intakes experience a more seamless and customized introduction to a medical practice. This solution not only promotes interoperability in health systems, but also boosts patient-centered care and engagement.