Meet Steve Buttitta. He’s the president of ByteSized Solutions, a company that has about 30 applications powered by Allscripts Open Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). We have shared data with those products more than 33 million times. Being Open is about utilization, not technology. You have to do it, not just talk about it.

I asked Steve if he’d be willing to share his thoughts with our blog readers, and he agreed:

I started consulting in healthcare integration 15 years ago. At the time, it was just me sitting in my basement banging out code. EHR systems were in their infancy and integration was both limited and difficult.

I struggled a lot in the start, because I spent my time fighting electronic health record (EHR) companies to get access to their systems or information about their systems. In the end, I burned a lot of hours and my clients paid for that time. Additionally, as a result of this lack of willingness to collaborate, I had to shoehorn in many solutions with less-than-graceful executions.

The adoption of EHRs and IT in general is now a requirement in health care. We’ve come a long way since then, but unfortunately, from a third-party integration perspective, not much has changed.

My company has developed a niche and expertise. We frequently accomplish tasks that EHR vendors have told their clients aren’t possible. I would think that EHR vendors would see a partnership with us as a net positive. We help their clients and make the EHR a better, more usable product.

Unfortunately, most EHR vendors, in a very short-sighted manner, see us as antagonists that are stealing their services business. They put up road blocks. They making accessing their APIs difficult.

As an example, we had one client demanding that its EHR vendor work with us on a project. The EHR vendor dragged its feet so much that it took almost six months just to sign a non-disclosure agreement. Closed EHR vendors routinely use tactics like this, or blocking access to API, to drive consulting services back to the EHR vendor. The truth of the matter is that in general they’re not equipped to do the work, and it will take too long to get the results clients are looking for.

I’ve found one exception to the rule: Allscripts.

Allscripts API is readily accessible. The cost of partnership is nominal. Documentation is published and support is available. Instead of hiding documentation, Allscripts strongly encourages innovators to attend open training classes and with people who wrote the API. It’s just that easy.

In the past 18 months, we’ve written many apps powered by Allscripts Open APIs. Some of the apps we’ve written just wouldn’t be possible without it. The Allscripts team spends a lot of time performance-tuning its API to make it blazingly fast. When we migrated one of our apps from direct database calls to Allscripts, we were able to increase its performance by more than 10 times.

Another big win is how the API works across multiple Allscripts products. We have a product that we had only sold into the Allscripts Touchworks® EHR space. After converting that product to Allscripts API, instead of taking hundreds of hours to make it work with Allscripts Professional EHR™, we were able to port the solution in less than 20 hours. Clients don’t have to wait as long to get the products they need.

Having gushed on about the API, I think at its core, the big differentiator between Allscripts and other EHR vendors is this Open philosophy. Allscripts recognizes that when we build products and solutions for clients, those clients are happier. As a company, Allscripts knows that it can’t be everything to everybody. Working with partners like us, together we can help move health care forward.

Having finally seen what it can look like when an EHR vendor really becomes a true partner, it has me asking the question “Why can’t it always be this easy?”

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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.

2 COMMENTS on Making it easier to innovate with Open APIs

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Tim Shear says:

01/14/2016 at 6:45 am

Vendor API resistance could be easily overcome with a model I call a patient “data custodian”, an entity contracted to manage storage and retrieval of patient data according to rules dictated/defaulted by the patient. In effect, giving the patient their data to control (deferred ownership). With the patient’s custodian controlling the who and in what roles, the sharing of data, can benefit all involved. Aggregation across all of the custodian’s patients will promote patient population management without exposing identities. When authorized for access by the patient, drill-down will allow stakeholders to target treatments to the specific patient according to best results derived over the larger population. There are of course many more benefits to be experienced/developed. EHRs built on this model would have enormous superiority over the closed EHRs of today.

We only need the government(s) to provide the legal frameworks to promote such a system.

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Eric Pearlman says:

01/14/2016 at 2:16 pm

Excellent article!! We (Talksoft Corporation) had the same positive experience when we joined the Allscripts Developer Program (ADP) and utilized the Allscripts APIs. Allscripts extensive set of APIs allowed us to integrate our appointment reminder and messaging platform with Allscripts TouchWorks and Professional and gave our mutual customers the easy integration they were looking for. Kudos to Allscripts for keeping things Open!

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