Allscripts Professional is one of the more common EMR/PM systems in use in the United States, and it can be found in organizations of various sizes from small single provider practices to larger hospital system owned clinics. For those looking to capture a wide breadth of practices and specialties with an integration, Allscripts with a good initial target.
Typically, if one wants to integrate with an EMR, lengthy discussions are entered into with the vendor to establish a contractual relationship and large expenses are undertaken to complete the custom integration.
While that is – fortunately – changing throughout the industry due to the increasing mandates for application programming interfaces (APIs). These open APIs have allowed for some features to be made more available to third-parties; however, in some cases the feature sets made available are limited. Other vendors that offer more extensive APIs may also charge a large sum for access or force the third-party to enter into an App Store development model that requires permanent revenue sharing with the EMR vendor.
Allscripts, however, took a different path with their main products – Professional EMR, Touchworks, and Sunrise – and, instead, offered a two-tiered API model.
The first tier allows for relatively extensive access for free; whereas, the other tier has a small per API-call charge that allows for access to nearly all of the facets of the EMR. This model allows a third-party to use the free tier as much as possible and to invoke the second tier only when absolutely needed; moreover, the model does not require one to enter to extensive licensing arrangements with Allscripts.
The process merely requires that the third-party create a free account with Allscripts Developer Network to access specifications and a sandboxed environment. The sandboxed environment – for all tiers – is available free of charge so that third-parties can experiment and test their solutions prior to presenting them to clients. Such a process allows for increased customer satisfaction as the testing time with the pilot clients is decreased greatly and many of the errors can be identified and corrected in the sandbox environment.
Outside of the development, the implementation of such APIs is straightforward. Once the solution is completed and submitted to Allscripts, implementation involved having the third-party create a service request on the Allscripts Developer Network portal with the practice’s Allscripts ID along with the contact information for the point-person on the client side.
Within the next week or so, the API will then be deployed to the practice. Moreover, the implementation of the API is exactly the same regardless of the hosting situation of the client (self-hosted, Allscripts cloud, or third-party hosting). This eliminates a degree of complexity for the third-party who typically would have to – depending on the hosting situation – navigate around VPNs and local IT managed service providers which may lead to additional costs, complexity, and points-of-failure.
With the Allscripts API, that risk is shifted onto Allscripts; thus, making their developer network a more inviting option – despite the per API-call.
As stated previously, getting started is rather simple, and it is essentially risk free (creating an account incurs neither charges nor other obligations).
From there, one can work with the sandboxed environment to ensure proper functionality before beginning to explore deployment with pilot clients.
APIs are continuing to develop, and it is expected that over time they will become the preferred form of integration due to their inherent flexibility and relatively lower barrier of entry (e.g., one does not need an integration engine or interface developers to implement the API integration).
While there are free APIs available and that will continue, it is reasonable to expect that EMR vendors will seek to monetize their APIs by charging either through a licensing model, an Appstore, or through a per call model pricing that Allscripts took for the advanced API calls.