– Google’s cloud-based healthcare API, designed to improve health data interoperability, is now in beta.
Google said its cloud-based healthcare API offers a managed solution for storing and accessing health data in Google Cloud platform, providing a link between healthcare systems and applications hosted on Google Cloud.
An API allows unrelated software to communicate with one another. It serves as a bridge between applications, allowing data to flow, regardless of how each application was originally designed.
Google unveiled its healthcare API plans a year ago. Google’s API can help streamline digital transformations because the data is managed from one tool that is interoperable with other IT infrastructure tools.
“From the beginning, our primary goal with Cloud Healthcare API has been to advance data interoperability by breaking down the data silos that exist within care systems,” explained a blog post authored by Ilia Tulchinsky, head of engineering, and Joe Corkery, MD, head of product, Google Cloud’s Healthcare and Life Sciences unit.
“Using the API, customers can unlock significant new capabilities for data analysis, machine learning, and application development. These capabilities, in turn, enable the next generation of healthcare solutions,” they added.
The API enables real-time integration of apps with healthcare networks and connects health data to other Google Cloud capabilities, such as Cloud Dataflow, BigQuery, and Cloud Machine Learning Engine.
It also provides the ability to de-identify several types of data stored in the service, including structured medical records and medical images.
Google API Supports HL7 FHIR, DICOM Standards
The Google API supports a range of standards-based data formats and protocols, including HL7 Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) and Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine (DICOM).
HL7 FHIR is a data exchange standard that combines features of Health Level Seven (HL7) International’s Version 2, Version 3, and CDA standards, while leveraging the latest web standards and applying a focus on implementation, explained the HL7 International’s website.
“FHIR solutions are built from a set of modular components called ‘Resources’. These resources can easily be assembled into working systems that solve real world clinical and administrative problems at a fraction of the price of existing alternatives,” the website noted.
FHIR can be used in a wide variety of contexts, including mobile phone apps, cloud communications, EHR-based data sharing, and server communication in large institutional healthcare providers.
DICOM is a data standard for handling, storing, printing, and transmitting information in medical imaging, including a file format definition and a network communications protocol, according to the DICOM Library website.
“The communication protocol is an application protocol that uses TCP/IP to communicate between systems. DICOM files can be exchanged between two entities that are capable of receiving image and patient data in DICOM format,” it related.
The National Electrical Manufacturers Association holds the copyright to the DICOM standard, which was developed by the DICOM Standards Committee.
ONC Proposes Certification Criteria for Healthcare API Developers
Encouraging the use APIs to promote healthcare interoperability has been one focus of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) in implementing the 21st Century Cures Act. ONC’s proposed rule implementing the act supports the use of the HL7 FHIR standard for healthcare APIs.
In its proposed rule, ONC laid out criteria for app developers in developing healthcare APIs. These criteria area designed to enable app users to securely access structured and unstructured health data using mobile devices.
“With the requirements we are proposing today — including the FHIR requirements — I am optimistic that we as patients and consumers will finally have deep insight into our health and new data to prevent sickness,” explained National Coordinator for Health IT Donald Rucker in a blog post.
“We will have better control of our medications and their costs. We will be able to bring machine learning and artificial intelligence directly to our health records on our smartphones. Apps we choose can help us to live more healthy and productive lives by integrating medical data into our daily lifestyle choices, including choices we make around exercise and eating,” he added.