The recent announcement by AthenaHealth that their APIs had been called one billion times serves as both a milestone for the use of APIs in healthcare and a reminder that API quality is as important as quantity. After all, McDonalds may have served billions of hamburgers, but no one is going to confuse them with a hand-fashioned burger with homemade condiments and the freshest fixings at a fancy restaurant!

As discussed by my colleague, Dave Levin MD, in his recent blog post, Liberate Applications with API-Based EMR Integration, application programming interfaces (APIs) allow seamless data exchange and integration into clinical workflows. APIs provide robust, EMR-agnostic integration that rapidly deploy and can quickly evolve. While APIs have many benefits, they also provide additional security for health systems and protection of patient privacy.

In Part I of this series, we made the case that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) selection of the same EMR being adopted by the Department of Defense (DoD), will not, in and of itself, solve the problem of fragmented medical records and better care. We looked at how active duty military, veterans and their dependents receive care from a hybrid of public and private health care providers and regularly move between the DoD, VA and civilian health systems. We also examined how EMR-to-EMR integration is limited and that even using the same brand of EMR is not the same as being on the same EMR.