Will pharma jump into an EHR app store near you? Don't count on it anytime soon

Will pharma someday say "There's an EHR app for that?" Maybe. EHR app stores are already popping up, and open APIs, or application programming interfaces, could eventually mean pick-and-choose app store solutions for healthcare providers. Open APIs would also mean any developer could write an application for a particular EHR system--and that includes pharma companies.

But take EHR companies reluctant to lose exclusive control over their systems because of competitive or regulatory concerns, and pharma companies hesitant to embrace digital tech, and you get a slow-to-change system.

Allscripts' Erik Kins

Some EHR companies have expressed support for open APIs, such as athenahealth ($ATHN) and Allscripts ($MDRX). And Allscripts has worked with a few pharma companies who've developed APIs for its system, said Erik Kins, VP of innovation who oversees the open business unit. But he admits that drugmakers are far from a majority of the developers.

"We would welcome more participation from pharma," Kins told FiercePharmaMarketing. "We're happy to get messages across where appropriate. I'm all about driving outcomes whether that's specific messaging or creating a tighter collaboration between physicians and patients around a particular regimen."

Allscripts works with software makers through its open developer's program. That's analogous to Apple's ($AAPL) developer program, which enables people to opt-in and build apps that work with Apple's system, and then sell them on Apple's app store. Allscripts, the No. 3 EHR in the U.S. according to SK&A, has its own EHR app store where its customers can view and download hundreds of available apps.

Others may follow as doctors, researchers and the federal government call for more interoperable EHRs. Congress last year directed the Office of the National Coordinator to only certify interoperable EHRs, although that doesn't necessarily mean they have to open their APIs to the public.

A consultant to Epic Systems, the leading EHR vendor in the U.S., said in February that Epic was planning to open its own app store, but no further details were given, such as whether the store would be open to outside developers.

"Pharma is an important part of EHR, but I still think that physicians feel pressured or incented to go one route or another," Kins said. "Yet there is a lot of value in having branded label information available when needed."

- see the Allscripts app store
- read more SK&A EHR data