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API Development for Legacy Healthcare Software

Modern times call for up-to-date technological measures. Still, legacy software systems make up a huge part of existing platforms and solutions across industries for various reasons. Global healthcare is not an exception. This is quite unfortunate – the growing market with growing demands and expanding common practices cannot be hindered with legacy solutions for long. 

And if an established, reliable healthcare provider still runs legacy software of any sort – it is more than necessary to timely modernize and boost one’s internal software capacities for several reasons. Legacy software can include programs, transactions, jobs, and procedures that run within existing application systems. As a rule, these systems are based on obsolete technologies, which leads to the following challenges:

Open APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) have proven their efficiency across industries since they provide easy access to information and capabilities. The medical sector, in particular, can benefit from open API for legacy healthcare applications, as they allow building the best solutions for every healthcare scenario. 

The Ultimate Use of API for Legacy Healthcare Software

API for a legacy healthcare system can address the existing issues and open the world of advanced technologies for healthcare institutions. Primarily, APIs help address some major concerns in this sector by giving patients total control over their electronic health records and boosting data exchange between health systems. Essentially, API for a legacy healthcare platform can do the following:

  • Enable cooperation between healthcare organizations and players from the other sectors;
  • Unleash the giant potential of collected and shared healthcare data and patient records;
  • Enhance the use of advanced technologies in healthcare, such as AI, proximity technologies, data visualization, and more.

Overall, APIs liberate applications and digital health organizations while helping health systems gain higher value from their EMRs.

APIs can vary by type, but generally, all of them work in the same way:

Use of APIs in healthcare | ModLogix

Specifically, when implemented by a qualified software modernization company, API solutions can provide the following advantages to a healthcare organization:

  • Performance flexibility;
  • Simple deployment;
  • Boosted user experience via high-performance applications and telehealth solutions;
  • Enterprise-grade scalability;
  • Reinforced data security;
  • Interoperability, which promotes digital health approaches and facilitates diagnosis setting;
  • Dramatically decreased overall costs;
  • Minimized enterprise-hindering risks.

Apart from creating a win-win situation for healthcare institutions and patients, data exchange and management with APIs can also benefit other medical system parties, which is illustrated in the scheme below:

An overview to healthcare market players | ModLogix

What You Need to Know about API Development for Legacy Healthcare Applications

When implementing an API strategy, a hospital or any other healthcare facilities should consider the best practices of API development for legacy software. For instance, a legacy EHR might only allow such standards as HL7 V2, HL7 v3, and CDA., while a modern population health system only exchanges SOAP web services messages. This fact considerably complicates interoperability in the healthcare niche. So what can we do?  

Since API integration is considered as one of the key legacy system modernization approaches, organizations should focus on the specifics of this process for healthcare. Thus, follow these basics: 

  • Consider how exactly you can implement APIs to modernize legacy systems and applications. There are two distinct strategies in this regard:
    • Organizations can package existing legacy services in a way that makes them more consumable by businesses by either wrapping services with RESTful APIs or exposing access to constituent web service operations through APIs;
    • Organizations can develop miniservices or microservices by re-architecting the underlying application code and exposing functionality through APIs.

To make the proper choice, healthcare providers should consider the context and workflow of healthcare facilities that use existing health data-producing technologies. While making most of it, consult with a software modernization services provider on the proper approach.

  • Access dependencies in your existing monolithic systems. Long-living applications usually have lots of dependencies, which are huge enemies of distributed architectures. In contrast, a microservice-based architecture can combat the related issues. 

If you have a monolithic architecture with well-segmented domains, few dependencies, and an automated release process, you may not need migration to microservices. However, it’s more likely that you’ll have to break up messy monoliths into neat microservices. There are also other aspects to assess when determining the legacy. You should check all systems in place to reveal the existing and potential issues. Inspect all aspects of your technology, from code and architecture to visual impression, considering your business goals. 

  • Develop a detailed plan matching your modernization strategy. A plan typically starts with identifying issues and setting goals. 
    • Figure out why you are going to build an API. Determine your target users and what data you are going to make accessible.
    • Outline the user functionality for your required API. In other words, what does your API need to do?
    • Understand the type of API you are building. Each API format has its specific features, and you should choose according to your tasks. Even if legacy systems aren’t supporting the FHIR standard yet, there are well documented FHIR mappings for legacy interoperability standards such as HL7 v.2 and CCD. Learn more about how to comply with the new FHIR interoperability standards.
    • Keep in mind the long-term use. Your API should be standardized, extendable, and ready to serve your and clients’ needs as long as possible.

  • Conduct the legacy system integration with API simultaneously, test your system, and refactor the required components.

  • Select the proper data integration approach, and back up all your data. You should make sure that your data is secure and accessible. To prevent data losses, back up all your information. In this regard, it is crucial to make sure that archiving and moving data to new environments goes off smoothly. 

  • Document all the changes you make to keep track of the progress. Meticulous documentation helps work out efficient procedures for the future, avoid the same mistakes, and observe your progress step by step.

Legacy Healthcare System Modernization Risks to Consider

The challenges that derive from legacy modernization through API integration include the following:

Risks of implementing APIs for legacy healthcare solutions | ModLogix

  • Security concerns. 

APIs deal with protected health information and so must adhere to HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules as well as with other regulations. Health IT Security outlines the two key questions that healthcare organizations should ask in determining an appropriate level of encryption and when encryption is needed, as recommended in the HHS HIPAA Security Series

  1. In order to prevent unauthorized access to ePHI (either by unauthorized persons or applications), analyze what data should be encrypted and decrypted?
  2. What methods of decryption and encryption are necessary, reasonable, and appropriate in your context? This measure prevents unauthorized persons and applications from gaining access to sensitive health information.
  • Messy legacy code.

Legacy code that was initially created for the specific platform features should be treated with particular care. Even if some pieces of it may seem to need replacement, they should be thoroughly checked. 

  • API testing can be a challenge. 

In addition to the headache of coordinating tests among different companies and agencies, healthcare systems can have a complex data flow across multiple environments. Simply put, they may not be replicated in test environments. We recommend you check the system at every stage of the API development process.

  • Data standardization. 

Multiple data standards that were established years ago usually contradict the new regulatory rules. So, if your system was designed in those times, get ready to revise all the documentation. One way or another, your system must match modern requirements. 

  • Skills shortage.

The lack of qualified talents is a common issue of every legacy project. Less and less developers want to bother working with dead programming languages and supporting “smelly code”, especially in huge enterprise projects. 

In order to choose the right approach, mitigate potential risks, or bridge a skills gap in your project, it is always better to consult an expert. Ask all your questions on legacy application modernization that will help you build the proper API solution for an outdated healthcare platform. 

Consider ModLogix as Your Legacy Application Modernization Partner

ModLogix is a software modernization company that offers a wide range of legacy modernization services. Applying up-to-date approaches, we assist healthcare providers on the most effective upgrading techniques. Particularly, our company develops the API from scratch for legacy applications to enhance digital transformation and open new business perspectives. 

Our case study

One of our latest projects was the development of a custom API integration solution for a healthcare provider Approved Admissions (AA). The vendor helps tracking changes in Medicare, Medicaid, and HMO Insurances. 

The goal

The client wanted to integrate their legacy system with EMR. The increasing flow of customers the company was facing dictated the need for a software solution that would enhance data exchange.

The process

From the very beginning, it was decided to build an integration platform that would automatically export medical records from PCC, SigmaCare, and Visual EMR to the AA platform – Data Bridge. While fulfilling the project, we successfully addressed the challenges of data standardization in legacy software and APIs connectivity to ASP.NET MVC. Our main steps were, as follows:

  • The development of a wrapper for the company to accept files;
  • The development of a web scraper to extract data from EMR platforms;
  • Transformation non-uniform formats of data into a structured format;
  • Establishing the data exchange process.

The results we achieved

  • The growth of report generation speeds by 12.3%;
  • 43% increase in customer base;
  • 15,000 processed requests every day.

Technologies we used:

.NET Framework 4.5, RabbitMQ, MassTransit.

If you are thinking about your transformation project, let us help you achieve your goals. Consult our experts now to start working on your API for legacy modernization.

Final Thoughts

API for the legacy healthcare systems is a game-changer in the modern medical services industry. These solutions help address the main challenges in the healthcare sector caused by outdated technology and offer vast opportunities. However, to develop an API for legacy healthcare software, a company should conduct a proper preparation that includes the selection of the right modernization strategy. Moreover, API for a legacy application may trigger a number of risks that an organization should know and be ready to address. 

A qualified modernization partner will help your institution on every stage of custom API for legacy healthcare application development. Discuss your project with our experts and enjoy a seamless process that would bring remarkable results!

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