Accelerate Mobile Application Development within Healthcare
Using API Management and Governance
Jan. 13, 2014 01:15 PM
Slide Deck from Gene Dragotta and Sachin Agarwal's Cloud Expo Presentation: A Peek into the Future of Mobile-Enabled Health Care
While unprecedented technological advances have been made in healthcare in areas such as genomics, digital imaging and Health Information Systems, access to this information has not been easy for both the healthcare provider and the patient themselves. Regulatory compliance and controls, information lock-in in proprietary Electronic Health Record systems and security concerns have made it difficult to share data across health care providers.
The opportunities inherent in mobile technology are dramatically changing the way healthcare business gets done. Healthcare provider professionals are adopting mobile devices and tablets as an alternative to desktops/laptops and using mobile applications to augment gaps in existing patient management system capabilities. Developing mobile applications for the healthcare industry has some unique challenges, particularly protecting your backend data services while making them available to mobile application frameworks and SDKs.
Mobile applications utilize messaging patterns similar to the client/server and AJAX patterns, however unlike desktop clients, mobile devices have to minimize client side processing to maximize battery life and also keep network chatter to a basic minimum. This is achieved by using RESTful APIs with machine-readable formats like JSON. The availability, reliability and performance of these API-based services are critical to the successful deployment and operating of your application. Now add some healthcare domain requirements (encryption, security, etc.,) to this environment and there is a lot of work to do in addition to the actual coding of your mobile application. An API management system will simplify exposing and consuming backend healthcare services through a variety of different channels. To successfully implement an API, you will need a tool that will enable simple enforcement of API controls, continuous monitoring capabilities, performance management, and assurance of high availability.
An API management system will typically provide capabilities for creating and registering service as follows:
The focus of this article is to discuss how a unified API management and SOA governance platform can accelerate your organization's ability to deliver reliable, scalable and secure mobile applications for healthcare providers. First we will begin with the major technical challenges encountered when deploying healthcare-based mobile applications. Then we will discuss API management and governance platform expectations that can help you overcome these challenges such as the following:
Security - Encryption, Authentication and Authorization
With asymmetrical cryptography, a public and private key are created simultaneously using the same algorithm (such as RSA) by the certificate authority. The private key is given to the requesting party and the public key is made publicly available (embedded within the certificate) in a location that all parties can access. The private key is used to decrypt text that has been encrypted with the public key. The certificate is used to authenticate the user.
Typically a PKI provides:
In addition to authenticating with a validated digital certificate, using SAML, an SSO token, basic HTTP authentication, an X.509 certificate, an application token or a third-party IAM system are all popular approaches that can be used to securely connect your mobile application to back-end systems and data services residing with the HIE enterprise.
When health provider personnel authenticate themselves on systems that access patient health records; it's likely that different employees will require and qualify for various levels of data access based on their job description. For this reason, a role-based authentication / authorization framework is recommended. For example, the front office personnel may only have a need to see basic information such as patient demographics, insurance and medication information and a nurse might be required to have access to the entire patient's medical record. Having a framework for implementing role-based access will easily help filter and mask patient data attributes from un-authorized use.
Mediation and Service Orchestration
In addition to mediation, service orchestration and the creation of compound services are a common requirement for health care oriented mobile applications. As an example, in order to create a patient's HL7 CCD, patient data usually resides within multiple systems, data service requests (primitives) to these systems will need to be orchestrated to form the resulting CCD dataset. In some cases, data returned from some of the primitive service requests may require some transformation or may be used as input to a subsequent request. Encapsulating and abstracting multiple primitive requests and any associated logic into a single composite service operation will reduce overall mobile application implementation complexity and message traffic between the mobile device and the HIE data center.
Policy-based Governance Controls for API Services
Within the realm of health care you might want to have some specific controls or governance policies regarding the use of the HIE's back-end system services or APIs. Below are some QoS and SLA examples.
The back-end services within the HEI should be deployed within an infrastructure that can provide a similar level of API governance.
Most enterprises utilize a dashboard and reporting system that ingests telemetry data from a variety of systems within the enterprise. Data from these systems are combined to create a complete picture of enterprise system activity. Therefore it may become important to have a capability that can export or publish API management system telemetry data to an enterprise activity monitoring system or reporting data warehouse.
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