ONC: App integration with EHR on the rise

The number of apps that integrate with EHR systems is on the rise.

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) says that more apps are integrating with EHRs.

According to a blog post from ONC, the entity has released research analyzing apps that were discoverable in app galleries managed by EHR developers such as Allscripts, athenahealth, Cerner Corporation, and Epic Systems Corporation as well as the SMART App Gallery. It found that there has been a 20 percent rise in the number of apps which integrate EHRs as the healthcare industry continues to adopt the digital tools.

The goal of the research was to understand growth in the app market, the various app functions, how they connect to EHRs, and if they Health Level Seven (HL7) Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) standard prior to finalization and implementation of the ONC Cures Act final rule, according to the post.

The total number of unique apps saw an increase during 2020 with administrative apps which handled scheduling, check-in, and billing making up 42 percent of available apps. Other common apps include clinical apps with 38 percent, care management apps with 31 percent, patient engagement apps with 20 percent, and research with 5 percent, the post says.

Meanwhile the number of FHIR-enabled apps has remained near constant despite more apps supporting FHIR as there has not been a statistically significant increase in the proportion of FHIR-enabled apps among all apps.

The post says that the modest growth may be tied to the prevalence of administrative apps which typically do not support FHIR as well as the fact that FHIR apps are typically developed around specific use cases.

“In this study, the data showed that there is still room for growth and variation in the apps available,” the post says. “Updates to the ONC Health IT Certification Program resulting from the ONC Cures Act Final Rule are intended to support a more robust ecosystem of third-party apps. By the end of 2022 many certified health IT developers will be required to support FHIR-based, standardized APIs for patient and population level services and they will need to abide by new API ‘Conditions and Maintenance of Certification’ requirements to promote transparent and competitive business practices.”