Before you begin developing an integration with OnCall Health's API, it's important to understand what your organization wishes to achieve with the integration.
Keep reading to learn more about the common types of integrations organizations build with OnCall Health's API, the complexity associated with each one, and why you might choose one over another.
The specifics of any integration you create featuring OnCall Health's API will depend primarily on two factors:
- Your organization's workflow
- The capabilities of the systems you're integrating with (including OnCall Health)
Your Customer Success Manager and OnCall Health's Solutions Engineers will work with you to understand what type of integration works best for your organization based on these factors.
A unidirectional integration is one in which information only needs to flow one way.
This typically takes one of two forms:
- Information flowing from your electronic medical record (EMR) or electronic health record (EHR) system into OnCall Health
- Information flowing from OnCall Health into your EMR or EHR
With a unidirectional integration, you need to maintain just one system of record. This leaves fewer edge cases to account for when developing and troubleshooting a unidirectional integration.
With a unidirectional integration, one system is responsible for data validation. This makes it easier to prevent users from entering incompatible data as long as users respect the intended flow of data (more on this shortly).
With a unidirectional integration, users must be trained to understand data must only be entered in the system of record. Otherwise, the two systems will quickly fall out of synchronization.
For example, imagine an appointment synchronization in which appointments should be created in your EMR or EHR and flow into OnCall Health.
If a user went against protocol and created an appointment in OnCall Health, your EMR or EHR would not be aware of that appointment. A user would subsequently be able to book an overlapping appointment in your EMR or EHR.
Even with adequate training, people make mistakes and will likely enter data into the system of reference (rather than the system of record) occasionally. There may even be scenarios in which it legitimately makes sense to do so.
In these scenarios, data will need to be manually reconciled between systems.
Developing a unidirectional integration may make sense if your organization:
- has very limited resources (specifically time and/or money)
- needs to set up an integration as soon as possible
- is using an EMR or EHR that does not offer write operations via an API
A bidirectional integration is one in which information needs to flow back and forth between OnCall Health and your EMR or EHR.
A key feature of a bidirectional integration is the ability to read and write data to and from both systems. This gives you maximum flexibility to maintain symmetry between both databases.
You can build develop logic into a bidirectional integration that automates data reconciliation between systems.
For example, updating an appointment in one system could trigger an equivalent update to the corresponding appointment in the other system. This will eliminate the need for users to manually update records in both systems.
Actions taken in one system may not always map neatly to actions that can be mapped using an API integration in the other system. This may necessitate creative workarounds via workflow planning as opposed to a fully automated solution.
With a bidirectional integration, the line between system of record and system of reference can become blurred. This makes it harder to control user behavior and creates more edge cases that need to be accounted for when developing, maintaining, and troubleshooting your integration.
Developing a bidirectional integration may make sense if your organization:
- has a workflow that necessitates data being entered in OnCall Health and your EMR or EHR
- has the resources to dedicate to creating a more complex integration
- is using an EMR or EHR that exposes full create, read, update, and destroy (CRUD) operations for the records you'd like to synchronize between it and OnCall Health
An appointment-only integration is one in which your only concern is synchronizing scheduled events between OnCall Health and your EMR or EHR.
When developing an appointment-only integration, you aren't concerned with creating or maintaining records beyond what is needed to facilitate scheduled activities.
In other words, you'll solely be creating and maintaining appointment objects in OnCall Health and letting our application's logic handle associated record types (i.e. appointment participants) as needed.
For various reasons, you may not want to transfer detailed patient demographic information into OnCall Health. For example, you may not want to deal with reconciling that data, particularly if your organization's providers don't need to access it in OnCall Health anyway.
Developing an appointment-only integration may make sense if your organization:
- is content with storing and accessing patient demographic information in an EMR or EHR
- uses OnCall Health solely as a virtual care platform
If a provider needs to reference detailed patient demographic information during an appointment, they will need to open your EMR or EHR to find it. This may make your integration less intuitive, which wouldn't be the case with an appointment and demographic integration.
An appointment and demographics integration is one in which you synchronize scheduled activities along with patient demographics that need to persist beyond the context of a specific appointment.
When non-technical personnel request a "full integration" between OnCall Health and an EMR or EHR, an appointment and demographics sync is often a key component of what they're looking for.
Built correctly, this type of integration is very intuitive for end users. It places data where they expect it, when they expect it.
Providers often need to reference patient demographic information during appointments. A full appointment and demographics integration reduces the need for providers to bounce between OnCall Health and your EMR or EHR to find this information.
It's easy to get lost in the many types of integrations you can build with OnCall Health and your EMR or EHR. Here are some tips for staying focused while planning and building an integration.
It's imperative you gather feedback from stakeholders before deciding what type of integration to build. It's also often important to find out, in non-technical terms, what they ideally want to happen as a result of the integration.
Helpful questions to ask might include:
- When you (or a patient) book an appointment in OnCall Health, what records need to be created in your EMR or EHR?
- When a form is completed in OnCall Health, what data needs to transfer into your EMR or EHR?
- When an appointment is updated (including cancellations or completions), what needs to happen in your EMR or EHR?
- What information about the patient do you need to reference in your EMR or EHR during the appointment?
- Which system do you plan on primarily entering data in?
You don't necessarily need to build a full-fledged integration from the get-go. In fact, you may find it preferable to start small and build additional functionality in later on based on feedback from users.
For example, if you know stakeholders need an appointment integration but are unsure what else they might need, start with an appointment-only integration and determine later on whether to add demographics.
Where do you plan on housing the code that makes HTTP requests to OnCall Health's API? This will play an important role in determining what type of integration you build.
Specifically, consider what objects are available for you to access, create, and edit via OnCall Health's API and your EMR or EHR's integration infrastructure.
As an enterprise client, you have access to OnCall Health's Solutions Engineering team that will help you plan your integration. Take advantage of this; successful clients typically set up a weekly cadence with the solutions engineering team during the planning and building stage.
We hope this guide has helped you understand the types of integrations you can build with OnCall Health's API and why you might choose one type of integration over another.
We recommend reading our other guides via the left-hand sidebar to learn more about building an integration with OnCall Health's API (including the specific API calls you need to make).
If you have questions, don't hesitate to contact your Customer Success Manager.
Updated about 1 year ago