Study: Apps integrating with EHRs grew 20% during 2020

EHR, EMR, medical record

EHR, EMR, medical record

Last year, the number of applications that integrate with certified EHRs rose by 20%, from 600 to 734, according to new research from the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.

The goal of the study was to set a baseline for the app market before the ONC Cures Act Final Rule was implemented, study authors wrote in an ONC blog post. The final rule — which was published in March 2020 and took effect in April of this year — established a number of conditions to promote transparent and competitive business practices that facilitate the adoption and use of application programming interfaces by third-party app developers.

For the study, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, the researchers developed a program that gathered data from the public app galleries hosted by Allscripts, athenahealth, Cerner Corporation, Epic Systems Corporation and Substitutable Medical Apps & Reusable Technology, or SMART. Data collection began in December 2019 and ended in December 2020. The program was run 11 times during that period.

The total number of unique apps discovered through these five galleries increased from 600 to 734. Three galleries — Cerner, Epic and SMART — had a net increase in the number of apps, while the athenahealth and Allscripts galleries saw a net decrease.

The Epic App Orchard saw the largest net increase (43%), adding 169 apps during the study period.

Administrative apps, that is, those that support scheduling, check-in and billing, made up about 42% of available apps in 2020. Clinical apps, which perform automated tasks, telehealth and clinical decision support, comprised 38%.

Approximately 31% of the apps focused on care management, 20% on patient engagement and 5% on research.

While the total number of EHR-integrated apps grew significantly, the number of apps that support the Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources standard saw only a modest increase.

By the end of 2020, 161 unique apps (22%) supported FHIR, up from 112 (19%) the year prior, the study shows.

The study authors provided some possible explanations for the slight growth, including that FHIR apps typically get developed around a set of specific use cases.

“FHIR resources are limited to the exchange of particular data elements, which may reduce their overall prevalence,” they wrote. “As the number of use cases grow, so should the number of applications.”

But by the end of 2022, many certified health IT developers will be required to support FHIR-based, standardized APIs for patient services.

Photo: invincible_bulldog, Getty Images



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