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 Ink, New York Presbyterian, eDoc4u 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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About the author

Stanley Crane is Chief Innovation Officer for Allscripts. In his more than 30 years of healthcare and consumer-related software experience, he has led the development of award-winning software programs including electronic health record, electronic prescribing, web-based medication sales, online physician education, resource scheduling, financial systems, materials management, medical translation software and voice recognition dictation systems. Previous to his healthcare experience, Stanley was involved in Silicon Valley, where he held positions with many well-known software companies. As the General Manager of Lotus cc:Mail, he created the first remote mail products. He was also the Vice President of Engineering at WordStar International, and Director of Applications at Ashton-Tate, managing their Macintosh products as well as dBase IV. Before that, Stanley was a founder of two Internet startups – MaxMiles, an automated frequent flier mileage aggregator, for whom he built the first versions of the product; and Shopping@Home, a company that was acquired by Allscripts in 1999 to support medication sales.

3 COMMENTS on What programmers think of Open


Joanna says:

11/15/2013 at 12:03 pm

Creating Space

I agree that open is a good start. But part of what movies have going for them is that they capture the imagination of the people working on them. They are visually stunning. Healthcare has the fact that it is relevant to each and every one of us (most everyone experiences being a patient at some point) but it does not have the wow factor going for it. Disney and Apple are driven by their ability to capture imagination. When you tap into imagination anything is possible.

Stanley Crane says:

11/17/2013 at 5:01 pm

Thanks for your comment. I love having these sorts of conversations.

Of course we will never experience the stunning, visual impact of the movies – but I think with Open we have a chance to bring to the mainstream more compelling user experiences, better ways to visualize complex patient data – Open provides the framework for innovation & creativity. Hopefully we will be able to tap into our collective imaginations.


Daniel Cabrera says:

02/01/2014 at 12:04 pm


I think the most valuable part about Open is making the data accessible to other systems. In many cases companies “silo” the client’s data making interoperability impossible due to their development/resource constraints and in other cases extremely high costs. We have had clients turn down interfaces due to the high costs from their EMR for simple ADT, SIU & MDM HL7 feeds. At the end of the day these clients still need to get data into other systems. This forces them to a manual process that creates more work and clearly open’s the door to mistakes. If everyone remembered that healthcare is about making patients better not about $ and greed then maybe, we could start to change things in the right direction. Stanley, is their a way to contact you? Would love to talk and bounce some ideas around.


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