Recommended: REST Feature Survey

Last year, I had the opportunity to attend a pair of fantastic API conferences, which brought together thought leaders for APIs and REST, from a variety of industries. It was incredible to share battle stories from my healthcare perspective with those of other industries – social media, banking, and multimedia for example – and learning how their problems apply to the healthcare space. This is a topic that is worthy of its own blog post.

Earlier this month, however, a few of the organizers opened a survey on the use of REST in various APIs across the spectrum. The website address is:


It is beyond helpful to understand what others are doing, and how they are putting REST to work. It is a great resource to consider future API developments – both in understanding what others are doing, and what consumers of REST ultimately want. I have referred to it several times now in formulating the next generation of standards. I recommend checking this out, and if you are a REST developer, definitely consider contributing to this survey, for the benefit of all.

healthcare API, REST

I need a REST interface

I was thinking the other day – after going through the mail and other daily meanderings, how awesome it would be if I were to have a REST interface. It would work like this: if I became a resource (for example, http://rest.me/integratorbrad), then I could receive all sorts of communications in a fashion that would be extremely streamlined. If someone wanted to send a bill to me, just POST it to http://rest.me/integratorbrad/bills/cable. If someone wanted to check the status of my calendar, simply query http://rest.me/integratorbrad/calendar/20140118 for my busy/free times. Of course, it would be secured with OAuth tokens, so I can grant elevated rights where necessary (I wouldn’t want a buddy posting cable bills to me, or telemarketers scheduling annoying calls into my calendar).

This got me thinking, though, on another problem I think about – healthcare and patient empowerment. There is a lot of talk about the pros and the cons of patient data sharing, but I think, in general, it is a good thing. Personally, I am a strong advocate of the Quantified Self movement, and subscribe to self-measuring whenever I can, and fill up spreadsheets, and graph, and nerd out. I understand the limits and challenges, though (i.e., if I were able to notice I am low on iron, I know enough to talk it over with my healthcare provider, before self-medicating and ODing on iron supplements). But, as I collect this information on myself, it empowers me as I move through the healthcare system; it guarantees that each provider is as knowledgable as the last. I am in control of my health, as best as I possibly can.

However, it would be a humongous job for every health care provider and those associated to healthcare to provide me the information they collect on me. Getting paper copies without some sort of incredible OCR system means a lot of unnecessary work. I can’t imagine having a username and password in every hospital for me to access this information. I don’t think OpenID is a decent enough solution (the permanency of accounts concerns me), and OAuth won’t really be viable either (in a distributed repository sense – who would hold all of my tokens?). I think something like Google Health was a good start, but I think, thinking bigger, a solution is possible.

So – back to my opening question – what if I had a RESTful endpoint? Everyone could post relevant healthcare content to me. POSTing to http://rest.me/integratorbrad/healthcare/labs would be an excellent way to deliver content to me personally. How I manage this mailbox of stuff, is really up to whatever application provider I use. If I wanted to parse the raw data and make all kinds of cool graphs (Brad’s Totally Awesome Hematocrit Counts), so be it. And if I wanted to, in turn, share this lab report with another healthcare provider, I could simply share the REST link for a GET, as long as we have an OAuth handshake in advance. I would be my own advocate in the healthcare system. There are tons of uses for this – POSTing prescriptions, medication information sheets, dietary guidelines, scheduling follow-up tests – an integrated system instead of a disparate one.

This wouldn’t be without problems, of course. Handling spam would be paramount, lest I have a lot of garbage to manage. Managing access would have to be incredibly streamlined (maybe this could work in conjunction with the Big Blue Button initiative). Educating the masses to such a system may very well be the biggest challenge. But, there are so many interesting uses of this data – population health, widespread research – that, with the proper controls in place, could change the way we look at health from a national perspective. With great knowledge, comes great responsibility, for sure.

This is a pipe dream, for sure. Especially for a statistic junkie like me. But boy, it sure would be powerful.