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Stephen O'Connor

By: Stephen O'Connor on June 15th, 2022

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Understanding the Roles of API and HL7 in a Healthcare Environment

Medical Billing / RCM | Practice Management

The complex nature of providing health care demands complicated computer and software systems to support the work of doctors, their staff, and other members of the medical industry.

You don’t need to be a computer scientist to appreciate the nuances of healthcare data standards and systems to help people communicate and share vital medical information. But it’s good to become at least somewhat familiar with the technology that allows us to share important facts and statistics about patients with other healthcare providers.

There never should be any obstacles keeping information siloed away. That doesn’t do patients any good, and it’s also bad for public health, which relies on timely access to ongoing healthcare issues and emerging trends in diseases in a given population.

We know that many of our customers are wondering whether ADSC has API or HL7 capabilities. We do. Read on for information about the role of API and HL7 in healthcare in context of our MedicsPremiere interface.

What Does API Stand for in Healthcare?

A commonly asked question among medical professionals is, “What does API stand for in healthcare?”

API stands for “application programming language.” As the Journal of AHIMA notes, “An API is software that bridges two or more applications, allowing data to flow irrespective of each application’s original design.”

APIs are a common aspect of modern computing in many industries. They help connect people to the services they want and need and speed up the sharing of useful data.

A problem in the early days of the internet was that so many people were using their own systems and databases to store information. Sharing the details was often a nightmare, if not impossible, in digital form. But resorting to printouts of the information is not an ideal way to make use of such massive troves of data. So the computer industry developed APIs to streamline information sharing.

A doctor’s office might want to analyze details about its patient population to gain a better understanding of current trends or allow patients to check the details from their own EHR information when they connect to a portal.

ADSC uses API technology in our MedicsPremiere Interface. Data comes from a variety of external sources. Rather than sending the payload of information through an electronic data interface, or EDI, it is instead processed directly. For credentials, the gateway key is a static key that’s used to authenticate data with the ADSC API gateway.

Our API supports white/black-listing of IPs as well as device IDs. By default, we keep this behavior turned off. Any requests using any device ID will be granted access as long as the payload HMAC matches the server-computed signature.

What Is HL7 in Healthcare?

A common question fielded by our customer service team concerns what is HL7 in healthcare systems? The term refers to Health Level Seven International, the international organization responsible for its development and maintenance.

Also known as “HL7 International,” the nonprofit organization was founded in 1987. It’s accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Standards Developing Organizations and focuses on supporting organizations with their administrative and clinical data. The organization notes that “The name HL7 comes from the seven levels of the Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) model. Level Seven is the Application Level.”

With HL7, the world now has standards for interoperability in healthcare data. The mission of HL7 is to foster a world where all people can access the correct health data whenever and wherever they need it. HL7’s role is to develop and promulgate the standards to support data exchange on a global basis.

Interoperability is a major premise of HL7 and API systems. The world needs a uniform way to share vital healthcare information. For example, a family practice doctor who diagnoses a patient with a rare disorder may need to refer this patient to a specialist in a different state who is using an entirely different system to store electronic patient records. There needs to be a seamless way to distribute patient details between the referring doctor and the specialist.

We also see a growing use of APIs to further empower ordinary patients. An API allows a smartphone app to connect a patient with his or her own records, directly from the doctor’s database, 24/7.

A related question has to do with what is an HL7 interface. This is a message standard to facilitate the transfer of patient details across different healthcare industry application platforms.

What Is the Difference Between HL7 and FHIR?

Being aware of the difference between FHIR and HL7 is key to understanding just how is HL7 used in healthcare.

FHIR is an acronym pronounced “fire” and stands for Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources. It’s another data standard in the healthcare industry, as the name suggests, using an API interface. An FHIR helps two different electronic health records or EHR applications exchange data over secure lines.

The Health Level 7 International organization developed FHIR to help fulfill the promise of APIs facilitating better and easier communication and sharing of patients’ healthcare data.

Work With a Healthcare Software Provider That Is Well Versed in API and HL7 Technical Requirements

Having a better understanding of what is an API in healthcare will make you more inclined to want to use APIs more effectively with the software tools you and your medical staff rely on every day. It pays to partner with industry professionals that have a firm grasp of the technical requirements. To learn more about our API and HL7 capabilities, connect with ADSC today.



About Stephen O'Connor

Stephen O'Connor is the Director of Brand and Digital Marketing, responsible for many aspects of Advanced Data Systems Corporation’s (ADS) marketing, including product marketing, customer acquisition, demand generation, brand, brand design, and content marketing.

Stephen has more than 20 years of healthcare industry experience. Prior to ADS, Stephen spent 11 years at Medical Resources Inc. (MRI), most recently as the Manager of Marketing & Internet Services, where he and his teams were responsible for all marketing efforts and the market positioning of MRI’s services.

Stephen spends his day's planning, writing, & designing resources for the modern healthcare professional.