In an era of instantaneous worldwide communication, healthcare still relies on ancient proprietary software, paper forms, and fax machines. To accelerate innovation in healthcare, open and robust exchange of information is critical.
When NexHealth set out to build the Synchronizer, we wanted to make healthcare data available to innovators. So we had a decision to make:
- Should we rely on partnerships with sluggish health record system vendors and their legacy technology, or
- Create new technology that enables doctors to sync their own data.
It wasn’t much of a decision at all. We chose option 2.
This meant building the Synchronizer on “hard mode,” learning how to read and write data with each health record system. But one of NexHealth’s founding principles is to do the things others are not willing to do. So that’s exactly what we did.
Working on NexHealth’s patient experience platform, I get to see the Synchronizer benefiting customers every day. Our SaaS product, just like all of the other technologies built using our API, depends on fast and reliable data synchronization. We’re able to deliver that thanks to our in-house approach to building the Synchronizer, which allows us to create an unmatched experience for doctors and developers alike.
The problems with partnerships
There are many problems that arise from trying to integrate directly with health record systems via a partnership. Here are just a few of the major ones:
- Almost all health record systems lack an easy way to sync. Application programming interfaces, commonly called “APIs”, allow different software applications to communicate with each other. But many health record systems don’t have an API. And when they do offer APIs, they are usually incomplete or poorly designed. Data “synchronization,” if you could call it that, often involves cumbersome file transfers and brittle custom code.
- Health record systems place limits on their APIs. Even if health record systems do have APIs, they often limit the ways that doctors and developers can use them. For example, you might only be able to sync data a couple of times per day. And large practices might face caps on the amount of data they can sync.
- Integrating with health record systems is expensive. When health record systems offer APIs, they can cost tens of thousands of dollars a year to use, with no discounts or entry-level pricing available. This prevents a lot of smaller practices and software companies from even trying to build an integration. “Pricing out” the little guys benefits the health record system vendors, at the expense of basically everyone else.
- There are hundreds of health record systems. Some are hosted in the cloud, and others run on servers in a doctor's office. Each one works a little differently — disparate data models, unique features they support. As a result, it takes a massive amount of effort to build and maintain integrations with each system. If you’re a college student hacking on the next big thing in your spare time, there’s no way you’d be able to do this yourself.
Aside from the myriad technical challenges above, there’s an underlying philosophical difference at play. At NexHealth, we believe healthcare data belongs to the doctors and patients, not the software vendors. The Synchronizer is designed to make healthcare data easily available and break the stranglehold of incumbent health record systems who’ve slowed down innovation in the healthcare industry for so long.
A better way to build
We took a different approach to building the Synchronizer that overcomes the issues associated with health record system partnerships:
- We identified the best way to sync data with dozens of health record systems and packaged this into the Synchronizer. Our engineers learn how to access and update each health record system’s software, databases, and interfaces so doctors can reliably sync data. This is a long and continuous process. Not only do we have to understand the health record system as it currently is, but also keep up with updates and new versions.
- We designed the Synchronizer to work at high-speed with any amount of data. No slow daily syncs, no copying CSV files around. That’s why NexHealth supports real-time online booking, digital forms, and more for even large DSOs like Mid-Atlantic Dental Partners and developers like Smile Direct Club.
- We created a unified API with accompanying documentation to give developers an easy way to connect to health record systems via the Synchronizer. We want to help developers focus on innovating in healthcare rather than reinventing the wheel. Developers learn and use a single comprehensive API, and we take care of all the plumbing.
- We built our patient experience platform atop our API so we could innovate quickly as we scaled. Because our SaaS engineers don’t have to worry about normalizing health record system data models and maintaining one-off integrations, they can rapidly deliver new patient-facing functionality in monthly release cycles. Developers can be confident building on top of our Synchronizer-backed API, because our own product depends on it too.
Most importantly, we’ve prioritized security and HIPAA compliance throughout each of these steps to help doctors and developers maintain trust with patients. And we’ve assembled a world-class team of engineers to keep building the Synchronizer and delivering rapid, reliable data synchronization for our customers.
The road ahead
We’re continuing to invest heavily in the Synchronizer so we can add even more functionality to our patient experience platform and API. That will mean syncing with more systems, making more data available on our API, and letting more developers build innovative software for the healthcare industry.
Tomorrow, we’ll share some stories of customers who are already using the Synchronizer to power world-class patient experiences. You can also chat with one of our Synchronizer experts to learn more today.
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