Veterans Affairs modernization project advances API use-cases
As the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) works toward across-the-board IT modernization and improved internal software development, the agency’s digital transformation increasingly relies on cloud-based applications. While transitioning to a new EHR from its legacy VistA system, connecting to two private-sector health information exchanges, and expanding its telemedicine services, the VA intends to have about 50 percent of its applications cloud-based by 2024.
The agency plans to deploy Apigee, Google Cloud’s application programming interface (API) management platform, to accelerate the development of new apps and data tools. The partnership will help the VA to scale its Lighthouse API program. Ultimately, the tools created under Lighthouse API — which uses the Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) framework for providing healthcare data in a standardized format — will make it easier for veterans to view/share health information and determine eligibility for community care.
In the VA project, the agency’s Benefits API could be used to develop apps that help veterans submit and track electronic claims and add supplemental documentation. Further, developers could access the VA’s Health APIs to construct online tools that help veterans manage their health and access their medical records.
Future focus on APIs to define interactions
The VA’s effort exemplifies the healthcare sector’s intensifying focus on cloud agility as a foundational technology pillar. Hospitals and health systems rely on cloud APIs to upload, send, analyze and store data while interfacing with other healthcare data via cloud-based apps. For instance, app developers are making the “handoff” of medical and imaging records more seamless and accessible by providers and patients. Additionally, APIs define interactions between multiple software components to ensure compliance within healthcare’s heavily regulated environment.
From a usability standpoint, APIs map data as a web of interconnected services that allow for human queries. The technology provides the capability for building data stores, creating subtopics that trigger downstream workflows, and attaching labels for specific use cases such as billing. Applications constructed in this manner can automatically scale to meet an organization’s data needs.
Further down the road, cloud-based apps are expected to support the implementation of data analytics powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning. The challenge will be to harmonize large volumes of data to derive actionable insights, setting the stage for improved decision-making while complying with security and compliance parameters. Those embracing cloud technology will be best positioned to address opportunities in data management while also meeting patient expectations for conveniently accessing and applying relevant information.
Frank Irving is a Philadelphia-based content writer and communications consultant specializing in healthcare and technology.