Orlando — Epic Systems is trying to get providers' electronic health record systems connected through a new app program that uses Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources or FHIR.
App Orchard aims to serve both physician office and hospital clients that want to build their own customized applications and outside developers of mobile applications for providers and patients.
App allows developers to use a FHIR-based application program interface to access a development sandbox. Developers then can work out the connection kinks between their apps and Epic's EHR.
It's a shift in development strategy from a largely customer-driven development model Epic has used in the past.
“We have typically allowed our customers to prioritize the vendors we work with,” said Brett Gann, who is leading the Epic team developing App Orchard.
In other words, in an HIT version of the chicken or the egg, a mobile app developer had to convince an Epic EHR customer of the value of its app before Epic would allow the app to connect with its EHR.
But, Gann said, “Vendors have been asking us to get started working with Epic before they have a customer.” Now that can happen.
The Epic program also will list apps that have completed the process in an online marketplace, “kind of akin to Apple's app vendor store, Gann said.
But unlike the Apple Store or Google Play, “there won't be the ability to download the app directly,” Gann said. At least for now, he said, “the software developers and the vendors will still do the traditional contracting.”
Epic also will provide a round of initial vetting of applicants to the development program, based on what Gann described as the “seven qualities of well-behaved apps.” They are: safety, security, privacy, reliability, system integrity, data integrity and scalability.
App developers who enroll will receive “a detailed document that talks about each of those qualities and what we mean by that,” he said. “In the initial stages, we expect them to commit to doing it and explain to us how” they'll live up to that commitment, Gann said.
Last summer, rival EHR developer and early FHIR booster Cerner Corp. set up a similar sandbox for app developers seeking access to data in its EHR using FHIR technology.