Cerner Launches SMART on FHIR, An Open API That Supports Third-Party App Development


Cerner announces the availability of a new API that will provide its clients and third-party app developers a way of integrating EHR data with apps and other enterprise systems. The new framework is an embedded version of HL7’s SMART on FHIR, an open-source API specification designed to integrate apps with EHRs, portals, HIEs, and other clinical applications. In a climate where EHR vendors are being accused of stifling interoperability to make it harder for their own client base to move to a competing vendor, Cerner is working hard to show the market that it is taking the opposite approach.

SMART on FHIR is still a pre-release API, meaning that it is relatively unstable and does not have the support that larger, more established, frameworks develop over time. However, with as much focus as there currently is on extracting data from EHRs, SMART on FHIR is getting a lot of attention and Cerner clients are about to have early access to test it in a live environment. David McCallie, MD and Senior Vice President of Medical Informatics at Cerner explains, “This integrated approach will provide clinicians access to ‘pluggable apps’ directly within their workflows that are designed to expand and transform the way care is delivered."

Several Cerner customers have already started work integrating third-party apps with their EHRs. Mosaic Life Care is working with clinical decision support vendor VisualDx to pre-populate search queries with patient specific information. VisualDx markets a differential diagnosis tool that helps providers diagnose skin conditions.

Under the hood, SMART on FHIR enables health systems to read data from an EHR and write data back to it. The potential that a robust read/write API would have for health systems is significant; however, HL7 correctly predicted that early adopters would restrict write access until the API was more stable. Though Cerner has not commented on the extent of data exchange it is supporting in its initial API release, the company’s developer documentation suggests that for the time being, Cerner’s API will be a read-only access point to EHR data.

With only three major EHR vendors operating in the acute care EHR space, Cerner’s efforts around interoperability continue to outpace its competition. Its primary rival, which is Epic, a highly-respected vendor in its own right, is currently prototyping a read-only FHIR API, but has yet to release a production-ready solution for its customer base.

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