Proposing an Allscripts Clinical Application Programming Interface Re-design

Currently, exchange of clinical data in and out of the Allscripts Enterprise EHR is facilitated via stored procedures. This  application programming interface (API) approach certainly comes with its downsides. In this article, we propose a re-design of the API to segment out the data and the configuration components of clinical data exchange.

At the outset of an interface project where there has been precedent set (existing Quest or LabCorp <-> AE-EHR order/result data exchange deployments), we almost always get the following questions from the vendor:

  • Shouldn’t the interface be the same from client-to-client?
  • Why do we need to pay Galen (vendors will often times subsidize the cost of interfaces) to design a known interface deployed across hundreds of clients?
  • Why do we need to reinvent the wheel?

Now these are very valid questions. And the response is as follows: Due to the approach utilized with the Allscripts interface API, an interface designer must take care in translating data extracted from outbound stored procedures into a valid, compliant HL7 message the vendor can accept (ORM for orders) and also take care in translating an HL7 message from a vendor (ORU) into a stored procedure call which sets both data elements and configuration options. To help guide the client and vendor through design decisions, Galen provides interface-specific (document, result, immunization) questionnaires.

Back to our proposed re-design: segmentation of the data elements (patient first name, provider ID, order item code) and configuration settings (enable tasking, utilize NPI for provider matching, utilize EntryCode for item matching – setting the traditional form parameters of the inbound stored procedures). With this approach, the vendor is responsible for providing the data elements as they normally do in the HL7 message (ORU for results), and the client sets the configuration settings via a workplace within the TWAdmin context in the AE-EHR – much as they do to set application preferences:

We have covered AE-EHR inbound interfaces quite well, so let’s address proposed re-design for outbound interfaces. Instead of each client requiring a site-to-site VPN and individual interface deployment, what if Allscripts chose some of its top vendor partners (Quest, Labcorp) and offered the capability to exchange out of the box, without the need for one-off interfaces? This approach is somewhat analogous to that of Surescripts acting as the hub and router for electronic prescriptions. In the case of outbound interfaces (orders for our example), there would still be the need to segment data (patient, provider, item) from configuration settings (a setting to enable or disable sending insurance information – IN1 segment of an HL7 ORM order message).

In conclusion the Allscripts clinical data exchange API serves its purpose quite well, but it could do a better job. Much of the functionality is derived from legacy, antiquated methods. Our hunch tells us that in promoting themes of Community Exchange and Connecting, the “new” Allscripts will be addressing this in short order.

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