EHR adoption rates have climbed up to 96% and millions of records. Everyone from small practices to large chains uses EHR systems, like Epic, Cerner, or MEDITECH, for patient management. They get an electronic medical record system and layer other applications on top. It allows building a single multi-component solution that connects healthcare data and provides controlled access to it.
Despite the clear benefits, EHR integration also brings interoperability challenges. It requires expertise in API integration and interoperability standards that most companies don’t have. Therefore, healthcare organizations often need professional tech help to connect multiple disparate third-party solutions to an EHR or EMR platform.
Our post explains the key EHR and EMR integration rules. Learn how to connect a system like Epic, Cerner EHR, or MEDITECH with third-party software below.
EHR vs. EMR Difference in Terms of Interoperability
EHR and EMR interoperability slightly differ. You should know it before planning health records integration in your organization.
First of all, electronic health records (EHR) and electronic medical records (EMR) require a different scope of information and interoperability. EMR solutions contain medical information (medical history, laboratory tests, diagnoses, medications, immunization details) from a specific organization. EHR systems have all the information usually collected in EMR plus family medical history, patient demographics, insurance details, financial and administrative information.
This way, EHR integration is more complex than EMR integration. It also involves a higher level of interoperability. Apart from medical information, you will need to connect medical testing systems, financial apps, insurance solutions, and other third-party software. The Binariks team can help you with both EMR and EHR software. We connect healthcare software following the FHIR standard and other interoperability rules.
EHR Interoperability Challenges: Why is Integration Difficult
EHR or EMR integration allows building a comprehensive healthcare system uniting multiple teams. A healthcare organization becomes more effective while the quality of care improves.
Nevertheless, the integration process is tricky. It entails many challenges you may be unprepared for:
Combining data from multiple applications in one system, you will face formatting difficulties. It will be necessary to convert thousands of records from one format to another to merge the information. Besides, you will need to follow the FHIR standard that requires the use of XML or JSON.
For EHR data interoperability, you will need to connect vital sign monitors, wearable devices, insurance systems, analytics platforms, and other solutions. Each of them has a different technological stack and integration requirements. Hence, the integration of third-party technologies is always a challenge.
Software integration can complicate EHR use
Four out of ten physicians believe EHRs don't help their work and bring more challenges than benefits. If you additionally integrate them with third-party software, the navigation can become even more complicated. Hence, it’s important to complete Epic, Meditech EMR, or Cerner integration very carefully.
Security and regulatory issues
Apart from bringing purely practical advantages, proper EHR and EMR integration is required by law. HL7 FHIR and USCDI interoperability standards are changing the healthcare regulatory landscape in the 2020s. If you are late with FHIR implementation, get ready for penalties.
During EHR like Epic, Cerner, or MEDITECH integration, you should also mind IT infrastructure. The maintenance of such a complex system needs continuous tech support and updates. If you don’t have qualified tech experts in your team (which is true for most healthcare organizations), it will be a problem.
What Software Solutions Do EHRs Like Epic, Cerner, or Meditech Usually Integrate With
In our article, we focus on the Epic EMR system, Cerner, and MEDITECH as the most widely used solutions. Based on recent statistics Epic healthcare system (34.05%), Cerner (23.71%), and MEDITECH (14.67%) are the largest US EHR vendors by market share. They also ensure a high level of interoperability for easy FHIR implementation and compliance. Evident, Allscripts, MEDHOST, and Netsmart Technologies are some other popular options.
Since an average healthcare provider needs to combine multiple apps, an electronic health records solution serves as a platform to build on. The connected third-party software usually include:
- Telehealth software
- Medical devices and wearables
- Laboratory software
- Patient management software
- Referral management
- Billing software
- Prescription management software
- Precision dosing software
- Supplemental benefit administration software (e.g. non-emergency medical services)
- Patient-centric apps
The integration of EHR data with these third-party software allows creating a detailed medical profile of a patient. Clinicians can access critical patient information, lab results, imaging, family history, emergency contacts, and other details. They can send these records to their colleagues to ask for advice or discuss treatment. Administrative departments that manage insurance reimbursements and billing also win from Epic, Cerner, or Meditech EHR integration with third-party software. It enables them to instantly access patients’ records for quick payment processing.
EHR and EMR Integration Solutions: EHR API, Integration Modules, or Middleware
There are several ways to connect third-party solutions with integrated EHRs. You can use native HL7 and FHIR APIs, EHR integration modules, or middleware.
Nowadays, most EHR systems offer EHR APIs integration as the easiest way to connect several solutions and achieve interoperability. Software integration through an EHR API takes much less time than EHR integration modules or middleware. Most importantly, the use of API in healthcare is one of the FHIR standard requirements. It guarantees secure PHI transmission without any changes or formatting issues.
API integration means that several apps are connected through an application programming interface. In this case, you link the desired EHR and the third-party software. Once you complete the integration, the EHR and app will communicate with the help of API requests.
the EHR Integration API Works
The application triggers the EHR/EMR API to complete the necessary request
The EHR/EMR API processes the request and sends it to the EHR system
The EHR system provides the necessary information to the EHR/EMR API that returns it to the third-party app
In reality, API requests take a fraction of a second to complete. Patient management software can rune thousands of such requests at a time. The reliability of API data transmission is another reason to prefer EHR API integration over other methods.
You can choose from EPIC API, Cerner API, Meditech API, or any other EHR APIs offered by software vendors. Once you decide on what EHR or EMR API is best for you, proceed with the integration.
Four Steps to Integrate an EHR Through an API in Healthcare
Despite many ways to connect EHR data with third-party software, here we’ll focus on EHR APIs integration. Binariks recommends this approach to our customers as an optimum way to achieve interoperability in healthcare.
#1. Check the rules of EHR API integration
Make sure EPIC, Cerner, MEDITECH, or another EHR integration API supports the software you want to connect. Applications may have outdated versions that don’t work well with leading electronic medical record systems. Hence, it’s better to contact the support team of the software vendor before EPIC FHIR integration.
#2. Get your API key
Register on the website of an EHR provider to get your HL7 FHIR API key.
#3. View what EHR data is available
Go through the main data categories to see whether the EHR/EMR API has the necessary endpoints. It will ensure that the connected third-party software has access to the desired records.
#4. Do some testing and complete the integration
Be sure all the API endpoints work as expected and finalize the integration. You will also need to test the system and check how the EMR integration solutions interact with the connected third-party software.
These are the standard EHR API integration stages. Remember that every electronic health records system has unique characteristics and requires a custom approach.
You can try to complete the integration yourself using EHR APIs’ guidelines or request professional help. Binariks offers EHR integration services for our healthcare customers across the globe. We have already completed dozens of EHR FHIR API integrations and can do it for you.
Interoperability in healthcare enables providers to share the same records and, therefore, makes treatment decisions more data-driven. Integrated EHRs and third-party software optimize insurance reimbursement, speed up access to patient records, connect referring doctors and specialists, and yield other benefits.
In this article, we have provided general guidance on EHR/EMR integration solutions. The easiest way to complete Cerner, MEDITECH, or Epic integration is an FHIR API. It ensures data interoperability compliance and smooth communication between the connected software.
If you seek professional tech assistance, Binariks also offers EHR integration services. We can connect third-party software to Cerner, MEDITECH, Epic, or any EHR system of your choice.