API Lifecycle Management

API Discovery in Healthcare – why this is important

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Anubha Gaur is the Executive Director of Platform Engineering DevSecOps and API Management at Quest Diagnostics. In this article, Anubha discusses the importance of API discovery in healthcare.

Quest Diagnostic is the leader in diagnostic testing insight and services. Interestingly, diagnostic testing accounts for 2% to 3% of healthcare spending. But 70% of healthcare decisions are based on these testing results. We serve roughly 50% of US hospitals and physicians.

In 2022 our revenue was around 9.8 billion dollars.

Let us start with a story. Maria is a mother of two kids, very focused on family health, and looks online to support the family well. She’s testing her 10-year-old daughter for allergies and has scheduled an appointment. Maria checks in, and a nurse collects the blood and prepares the specimen for testing. Michael, a Quest Diagnostic tech team member, collects and delivers the specimen from the lab to the testing lab. After the testing, Maria receives her daughter’s test results through email and SMS. Based on the results, Maria will take some action.

Behind the scenes, all interactions take place through APIs. APIs expose business functions through an interface and improve customer experience. This helps to drive business growth.

It is important to understand that API is a way to connect business units and provide these capabilities to third-party partners and consumers to solve a business problem.

API Value Chain

The API Value chain starts with assets. Assets are something that a business wants to allow others to use.

In the above example, Maria wants to book an appointment. She is a service user and may use any device to use the app. So, there is an app developer that uses the APIs. The APIs are designed and developed by an API Provider team. All this forms the API value chain.

One of the challenges in API adoption comes when there is a lack of expertise in managing and supporting APIs.

API discovery

API discovery is the ability of finding and creating inventory for the APIs. It helps to discover what sensitive health data the API can access. API discovery helps to find different API resources to enhance an app’s performance or discover new features to add to an API. It is a way to ensure that the APIs are maintained and secure.

So, the more APIs we create, the more unexpected behavior emerges. In an enterprise, multiple teams may develop their APIs and apps having the same functionality.

Problems with API scaling

  • Lack of standards due to lack of central API governance
  • No single API Inventory
  • High build and maintenance costs

It is important to understand that API governance is the heart of the overall API lifecycle management. API governance has to start at every step of the lifecycle.

 

  • API Product – Why is the product needed? What will it be used for, and the business value that you will derive?
  • API Discovery – Discover what is available or already developed and in use
  • API Design – Following API standards, design the API
  • API Development – Develop the API with proper documentation and coding practices
  • API Integration Test – Take the API through QA. Address quality-related issues
  • API Deployment – Deploy the API
  • API Secure – Ensure that the API is secure
  • Publish or Retire API – Publish the API, use it, and when the time is right, retire the API.

API Categories

  • Private APIs – developed for the organization and the employees. These APIs are used within the organization and unavailable for consumption outside.
  • Public APIs – developed for consumption by the public
  • Partner APIs – available to partners based on contractual agreements

FHIR APIs

Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) is a healthcare data standard for representing and exchanging electronic health records (EHR). It is an information network that lets you link data across systems and a communication network that lets you exchange data between systems. FHIR includes an HTTP-based RESTful protocol. Data representation uses JSON format.

Implementation approach

At Quest, we use the four-step process

  • API Governance – Improve API developer experience. API governance is an important part of a successful API management
  • API Documentation – First interface for app developers to learn about an API
  • Build Single Source of Truth – have an API developer portal where developers can find APIs. Ensure that API documentation is up-to-date.
  • Build API Inventory – Categorize APIs based on their usage. This improves the API consumption model.

To summarize, APIs are transforming the healthcare customer experience. They are the connecting tissue in the digital value chain. API consumers or developers are at the center. When designing APIs, we must understand that APIs should be easy to consume, understand and discover. APIs should be secure. Developer experience is the key to successful API adoption.

Anubha Gaur

Anubha Gaur

Executive Director, DevSecOps and API Management at Quest Diagnostics
Experienced, passionate and result-driven technology leader with extensive expertise in Digital Transformation, Business Processes Improvement; API Enablement and Cloud Native solutions. Highly motivated and energetic to deliver tangible business value through the use of information technologies with the successful track record of building and leading diverse engineering teams. A leader in the software design, development and operations of complex high volume systems. Anubha has experience in many industries with an acute ability to map problem domains and build strategic solutions. As a creative transformation leader, Anubha has an ability to disrupt the status quo while creating a learn and grow culture. Anubha’s leadership has been built on the facts and data to make the decision and process improvement. Passionate learner of machine learning who enjoys API Evangelist role to enable APIs as a Product and cloud native system; if time permits, write articles in Medium @anubhagaur. Anubha’s core strength is building an innovative, creative engineering talent by providing technical leadership and challenging opportunities.

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