NIH calls on EHR developers to facilitate Obama's PMI through the use of open APIs

President Barack Obama

NIH has rounded up the leading lights of the electronic health records (EHR) sector to address some long-standing shortcomings of their industry. The plan is to adopt open, standardized APIs to enable patients to easily contribute their health data to research programs, a process that is currently made difficult by interoperability limitations.

Allscripts ($MDRX), athenahealth ($ATHN), Cerner ($CERN), drchrono, Epic and Mckesson ($MCK) have signed up to work with NIH and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT on the project, which has been dubbed "Sync for Science." The idea, which emerged last year during discussions about how to implement President Obama's Precision Medicine Initiative (PMI), is to develop open standards for use by EHR providers. With such standards in place, patients will be able to access their EHR data through APIs and share them with researchers.

By freeing health data from the EHR silos, NIH and others involved with PMI think they can improve research. "Cerner is committed to helping advance precision medicine through patient-enabled research to help break down data silos," Cerner SVP David McCallie said in a statement. "It's an investment in the future of healthcare, which will benefit the industry overall." Without access to the information locked up in EHRs, attempts by PMI to build a patchwork of data sources that can yield health insights could falter.

Other components of the sprawling PMI are working in parallel to "Sync for Science" to prevent this outcome. Specifically, 20 of the Patient-Powered Research Networks (PPRNs) that are involved with the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) have committed to giving individuals access to their EHR data. While details of how the process will work are still being ironed out, the idea is to give patients an immediate option to share their data with researchers.

Collectively, the initiatives represent a move toward the long-forecast blurring of the lines between research and day-to-day healthcare. In this vision of the future, each healthcare interaction becomes an opportunity to inform research, something that is only possible if EHR data can be shared easily.

- read the White House statement
- here's Cerner's release
- and PCORI's news