By Selma Pittman and Bill Bates

In today’s health landscape, more data is available than ever before, and stakeholders are still working to find the best ways to access, ingest, and analyze this data. Until recently, healthcare data was only available within the four walls of the hospital, showing an episodic view of a patient’s health and leaving their actions outside of the doctor’s office largely unaccounted for. Now, we have access to health data from consumers around the world, and it’s crucial that this data is available to healthcare providers and other stakeholders as soon as possible.

Validic Inform’s new streaming capability allows for the integration of continuous, near real-time patient data from home health devices. This model offers the streaming capability of high-volume data platforms like Twitter or Salesforce, but formulated to offer the most effective, efficient access to patient data. Validic’s Vice President of Engineering Bill Bates and Head of Product Selma Pittman share their insight on exactly what that means for the industry and the future of healthcare in this two-part blog series.

As we announce the newest version of our API, we thought it would be a good time to review our Inform platform and our newest data delivery method, the Streaming API. In this post, we discuss the tools essential to our Validic offering, such as APIs and the languages used.

What is an API?

For those unfamiliar with APIs, it’s necessary to understand what an API is and why they’re important to your business. Simply put, an API is just a way for two machines to talk to one another.  An application program interface (API) is a set of routines, protocols, and tools for building software applications. Basically, an API specifies how software components should interact.

The core of the Validic platform is a collection of APIs which allows Validic customers to connect with hundreds of devices and applications by building one integration to Validic. It’s a very simple business proposition that saves Validic customers significant time and overhead as opposed to building their own solution.

What is JSON?

Consider how companies are built. No two companies experience the same genesis or share exactly the same architecture. So, for two companies to share data, they have to agree to speak in a standardized language or format, thus introducing API’s. For instance:

  • Company A designs their software using Java
  • Company B designs their software using Ruby
  • Both companies want access to wearable device data from Company C. To bridge the gap, they all must agree to communicate in a specific “language,” or format.  This is where JSON comes in.

JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) is a lightweight data-interchange format. It’s fairly easy for humans to understand, often referred to as “human readable,” and it’s also easy for machines to parse and generate (think read and write, but for machines). It is based on a subset of the JavaScript programming language.

What is REST?

So far we’ve determined how we’ll communicate and what language we’ll communicate in, so now we need to solidify the details of our engagement. Basically, we need to agree on how we’ll use that language to talk between systems.

When two machines speak, there is no room for vague questions, assumptions, or jargon. There must be an exact format that follows. Enter REST. You’ll often hear our original API called a REST API or a RESTful API. This refers to an architectural style used to define how you may interact with an API. This explicit design provides predictability, so regardless of the type of data being consumed, a developer should expect a standard architecture during the conversation.

How Validic Delivers Data

In the Inform platform, we introduced new methods to consume data from Validic. Within Inform, customers can request data using a traditional RESTful API, or take advantage of our new Streaming API. While streaming API’s are already in use with high-volume data applications like Twitter and Salesforce, it may be a new concept to some users. 

Streaming API

This type of API is a method of streaming data directly to Validic customers. Basically, a Validic customer opens a connection to Validic and we push data records to the customer using Server-sent events. A Server-sent event (SSE) is a “technology where a browser receives automatic updates from a server via HTTP connection.” As soon as an event is received by Validic, we de-identify data, transform the data to a standardized format and push this data directly to our customers. This method provides near-real time data to our customers, without the overhead of a traditional RESTful API. The data delivered over this API is in the same JSON format as the RESTful API, making it easy to move between the RESTful and Streaming API.

Read part two of this blog series here to hear more about what a data streaming capability means for the healthcare industry.

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