People already talk at length about increased usage of application programming interface (API) technology in industries like tech, manufacturing, finance, and retail. But one sector that stands to benefit greatly from API technology is that of healthcare. Hospitals, clinics, insurance carriers, government agencies, and other providers involved in the delivery of healthcare services have undergone widespread digitization in the last two decades. APIs, which act as software intermediaries for disparate applications to communicate and share information with one another, are involved in the following:
- The enhancement of onsite healthcare service delivery within or between individual hospital departments
- Innovative new online services, like telemedicine and prescription management applications
- Better coordination among partners in the provider network, like doctors, hospital administrators, insurers, and public healthcare workers
- Updates to legacy systems to be more responsive to evolving healthcare technologies
Thanks to APIs, the healthcare sector can go beyond the boundaries of the traditional face-to-face, pen-and-paper service delivery methods. Thus, API developers who’ll be working on such projects can lead healthcare technology innovation at a time that it is sorely needed.
If you anticipate getting more involved in this promising field of API work, here are five key design strategies to guide you in designing useful, efficient, and potentially life-saving API products.
Agree on the Desired Outcome of the Service with Stakeholders in Healthcare
The first step in the process should be the finalization of terms with fellow stakeholders in the API’s design and implementation. Along with your fellow developers, this may include representatives from the client healthcare company and app developers you’ll be working with.
In the stakeholders’ agreement, you need to be able to set expectations for what problem you intend for the API to solve. It may be an issue of decongesting hospital arrivals, consolidating patient information through a patient portal, or broadening options for healthcare financing. But again, you will need to formulate your design approach based on the fulfillment of these outcomes before the actual design work starts.
One recommended course of action is for you to draft an API contract and choose a specification for defining the API. The API specification will act as a blueprint for the functions and scope of your healthcare API. Many seasoned developers, including those who’ve worked on healthcare projects, favor the OpenAPI Specification description format for its lightweight, adaptable, and designer-friendly qualities.
Draft a Design Guide for the New Healthcare API Service
The second strategy you might want to adopt for yourself and your fellow API developers is to compile an API design guide. Creating an API design guide is a good way to keep your design work consistent and to allow maximum collaboration among your team members. For future projects, especially those involving complex data that’s related to healthcare, you’ll at least have a point of reference for replicating successful design work.
The content of your design guide can include a list of relevant protocols. For example, common HTTP methods in a REST API for healthcare-related purposes are best suited for this. You can also include tips for designing the API using a specific toolkit, like a hosted toolset. Ultimately, the goal is for you and your teammates to share information on how to design a functional healthcare API.
Code, Mock, and Test the API’s Components Carefully
The next few steps in designing a healthcare API are the ones that will take the most time and legwork. These are: writing the code, mocking it, and then testing and prototyping components. The cycle may repeat itself several times before you come up with an API virtualization, or a working copy of the product to be launched.
With that said, when you run the gamut of coding, mocking, and testing, always make sure that you do the work carefully and exhaustively. Don’t rush the work, and be vigilant about what you’re testing for and what the results really mean. Your API will handle important medical and financial data, and bugs or downtime may even be a matter of life and death. Be calm in the face of such pressure and aim to launch the best possible product for your consumers in healthcare.
Be Conscientious About Your Healthcare API Documentation
A great healthcare API product should be released to its client with excellent documentation accompanying it. Assume that your documentation will be used often by stakeholders who’ll be integrating with your API, such as chief technology officers (CTOs) of healthcare institutions.
Aim to release API documentation that has an everything-in-the-manual feel to it. The content of the API docs can include the following:
- The rationale behind the creation of the API and its intended contribution to patients and healthcare providers
- A step-by-step tutorial on usage
- The API’s endpoints and parameters
- A summary of the API’s past versions
- A list of all API updates
- Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
Complete and well-kept API documentation will boost your client’s confidence in your product. Eventually, it will also contribute to their ease in using the API for their respective duties.
Build an Active Community for Your Healthcare API
Your work on the healthcare API doesn’t stop when you launch the first iteration of the product. You can expect to make further adjustments in the design once you receive feedback from your end users. That’s why it’s in your interest, as well as that of your stakeholders, to create a community for your API after you release it. This can come in the form of a developer portal or forum for stakeholders.
Each API project starts with an initial gathering of user requirements from clients. But true satisfaction with your product can only be measured after users have spent time with the service. Stay in touch with those involved in your API community, and keep an ear open for feedback. This is how you can continue to improve your product, as well as the delivery of the health services associated with it.
Conclusion: API Design Towards Better Quality of Life
All in all, APIs can contribute greatly towards data management in healthcare facilities and the efficiency of individual healthcare services, both onsite and online. Today’s healthcare APIs have also increased the current reach of healthcare technologies to a wide demographic of patients, thanks to the ubiquity of the internet.
But good design is paramount in the achievement of these. Healthcare APIs should be designed for integration into a large ecosystem of services. Moreover, they should be designed to process and handle information in a way befitting of their urgency.
When you put thoughtful design work into your API work, you contribute a great deal to the strengthening of the current healthcare system. Here’s to helping consumers achieve a better quality of life, and helping healthcare professionals serve their constituencies through your API design work!