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Can API vendors fix healthcare data problems?


A working healthcare system relies on nurses getting the right data at the right time to make the right decision on what path a patient wants in the treatment.

Following the COVID-19 outbreak and the growth of customer acceptance of telemedicine, along with the outsourcing of treatment to a variety of different low-cost providers, it is much more necessary to have access to a patient’s medical history to get a clear image of their health.

Opening up access for developers could also allow innovative, integrated technologies that could give customers a clearer snapshot of potential for their own wellbeing and consumer product companies to create new tools for improving safety.

Although hospitals, emergency care services and health departments maintained patient records electronically for years due to laws passed under Clinton administration, it was difficult for patients themselves to access those records. The manner in which the system was historically organized has made it almost impossible for an patient to access all of their medical history.

Ensuring that patients get the best treatment they could possibly get is a major impediment, and until now it has been a rock that businesses have long attempted to push uphill, only to see it push over them.

Now, new rules mandate that electronic health record developers can’t hinder device interoperability and access. Those new rules could unleash a new wave of digital services.

That at least is what companies like Particle Safety, a New York-based startup, are hoping to see. The company was founded by Troy Bannister, a former emergency medical technician and consultant, and Dan Horbatt, a longtime software developer for companies such as Palantir and Google.

Particle Health joins the breach with an API-based approach that borrows heavily from the research performed by Plaid and Stripe in the financial services sector. It’s a gambit that attracts funding from investors including Menlo Ventures, Startup Health, Collective Fund, Story Ventures and Business Ventures, as well as from Flatiron Health, Clover Health, Plaid, Petal and Hometeam leadership angel investors.


“My first reaction when I met Troy, and he explained what they were doing, was that it couldn’t be done,” said Greg Yap, a partner with Menlo Ventures, who is leading investment in life sciences at the company.

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“We have known how much of a burden and how much of a tax the lack of simple data portability imposes on the healthcare system, but the question has always seemed like there are too many barriers that it is too difficult to overcome.” What persuaded Yap’s company, Menlo Ventures, and the other supporters of the company, was the ability to provide data portability and privacy in a way that puts the patient’s interests in a position to do so.

“It must be portable for [a service] to be useful, but it must be private for it to be used well,” Yap says.

The firm is not the first organization to raise capital for a data integration program. Last year, in a later stage funding round, Redox, a Madison, Wis .- based developer of hospital API services, raised $33million. Meanwhile, another maker of the API, Innovaccer, has raised more than $100 million from investors for its own take.

According to Bannister, each of these organizations is addressing a particular issue that the information silos pose in the medical industry. “The integrations concentrate on hospitals, one-to-one,” he said. Application developers may use the tools provided by Redox to access medical records from a particular hospital network, he explained. Whereas the technology used by Particle Health enables developers to access a whole network.

“We are getting the hospitals contracts and agreements. We are moving up the food chain and have contracts with the [electronic medical records], “Bannister said.

The passing of the 21st Century Cures Act in 2016 is one of the factors that has given Particle Safety a greater degree of independence to gain and integrate with current healthcare systems.

The legislation mandated the electronic medical records providers such as Cerner and EPIC to eliminate any roadblocks that would hold patient data siloed. Another is the Trustworthy Exchange System and Mutual Agreement, only implemented in the previous month.

“We don’t like betting on companies that need a change of law to be successful,” Yap said of the circumstances surrounding the potential of Particle to leapfrog well-funded competitors. But it was too compelling to have the ability to fund a company that could solve a key digital healthcare issue.

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“What we really mean is patient access to their medical records,” he said.


This exposure will make consumer wearables more valuable by connecting them — and the health data that they collect — to clinical data that physicians use to actually make care and treatment decisions. Most tools today are not accepted clinically, and have no clear incorporation into the healthcare system. Access to better data on both sides could alter that.

“Today’s digital health technology will be much more successful if it can integrate background information in the medical record,” Yap said. “This is one example where the patient can have a far greater benefit from digital health applications because digital health applications can access all the information gathered by the medical system.” With the investment worth around $48 million in Particle Health, Bannister and his team are looking to push rapidly into more digital health services areas.

“We are focussing on telemedicine right now,” Bannister said. “We step into the payer room … As it stands today we are only serving the third parties that need the information. Our fundamental principle is that patients want their data to be monitored but don’t want the stewardship. “The breadth of the business is incredible. Bannister estimates that Particle Health will reach between 250 and 300 million of the patient records produced in the US somewhere. “We have more or less solved the question of fragmentation. We have one API which can pull details from nearly anywhere.

To date, Particle Health has eight live contracts with telemedicine and virtual health companies using its API which to date has pulled 1.4 million patient records.

“If you give them permission to access your data, the way it functions right now, it’s for a very limited use reason … they can only use it for that one thing. Let’s just say you used a telemedicine program. I authorize the physician to access my records for medical purposes only. We have created a way for you to revoke access after the point after that, “Bannister said.

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Particle Health’s peers in the creation of APIs also see the potential of greater, more transparent data access. “Much money has been invested, and a lot of blood and sweat has gone into getting [electronic medical records] out there,” said Mike Sutten, chief technical officer of Innovaccer.

Kaiser Permanente’s former Chief Technology Officer, Sutten, knows technology in healthcare. “The next decade is about ‘let’s take advantage of all this data.’ Let’s give doctors back and give them access to all that data and think about the patients and the customers,” Sutten said.

Innovaccer is angling to provide doctors and customers with its own resources to centralize the data. “The less confusion there is in collecting the data, the greater the value we can bring to customers and clinicians,” Sutten said.

Particle Health is now exploring ways to help its API developers build tools to better control COVID-19 populations and eventually find ways to ease the existing lockdowns due to the outbreak of the disease.

“In the past, if you had an antibody test or PCR test … we should have access to that data and we should be able to provide that data on a scale,” Bannister said.

“Perhaps there are other risk-indicating indicators that might at least support triage or clear groups as well … has this individual been quarantined in the last month or two … stuff like this might support bridge the gap,” he said, between the conclusive solution of standardized testing and the lack of testing resources to make it a reality.

“We’re certainly focused on those measures for public health,” said Bannister. Soon, the technology of the business — and other systems like it — may be operating behind the scenes in private healthcare programs from some of the biggest corporations in the nation as software gradually starts to take bigger bites out of the consumer health industry.

Ayeni Sylvester
the authorAyeni Sylvester

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