Redox and Kinvey Team Up, Hoping To Simplify Healthcare App-Making
Creating a software application that can talk to a hospital or clinic’s patient record-keeping system can be messy. As a result, many third-party developers elect to use an application programming interface, like one created by the Madison, WI-based startup Redox, to get data in and out of healthcare organizations’ records systems.
Still, app-makers, regardless of what industry they work in, must configure a software product’s backend, which encompasses things like user authentication, libraries, and analytics. Backend components tend to vary less across different apps than frontend ones, which control what a user sees, hears, and feels—the user experience. Several companies, such as Boston-based Kinvey, specialize in providing backend services.
Now comes news that Redox and Kinvey have forged a partnership. The companies say the agreement will help shorten developers’ paths from concept to product, and allow them to concentrate on what they know—and like doing—best.
“For mobile developers, accessing [health records] data is cumbersome and time-consuming,” says Jikku Venkat, Kinvey’s vice president of product, in a prepared statement. “With Redox and Kinvey, developers gain a standardized way of accessing [health records] systems, masking the subtleties of each system, and turning a six-month project into a one-month project.”
James Lloyd, co-founder and chief technology officer of Redox, says his company is constantly searching for cases where people are building apps that use health data, and they’re “doing redundant work that’s not really core to their business.” When Redox has identified an area with significant overlap, he says, one option is adding it to Redox’s software. “Or we can partner with folks who do it really well today,” he says, which is the case with Kinvey and mobile backend management.
A big part of Kinvey’s business revolves around making tools for mobile developers. In April, the company announced a collaboration with one of the major players in hosting, Google Cloud Platform. Kinvey said it used Google’s platform to launch software—which Kinvey described as mobile backend as a service, or mBaaS—that is compliant with HIPAA, a law that regulates the use, disclosure, and transmission of protected patient health information. HIPAA compliance is important for app developers and users alike because the unauthorized sending of sensitive patient data can result in steep fines or even jail time. The law, originally passed in 1996, has since been updated with provisions that can apply to mobile devices.
Part of the challenge with writing software for the healthcare industry is that many of today’s widely used applications, including ones for managing patient records, “were designed without mobile in mind,” Kinvey says in a press release.
Grahame Grieve, a consultant who is co-leading a project to update so-called interoperability standards for exchanging health data electronically, says that he first worked on projects related to interoperability in the 1970s. These standards are known as HL7, short for Health Level Seven International, the Ann Arbor, MI, nonprofit that manages them. Grieve says that bringing HL7 into the current era of computing involves “having to play catch-up at the technical level.”
Also complicating things is the fact that “most [health records] systems have been highly customized, [meaning] integration is difficult without detailed knowledge of each system,” according to the press release.
Judy Faulkner, founder and CEO of Verona, WI-based Epic Systems, made a similar point in an interview published earlier this week. A typical system that uses patient records software from Epic or one of its competitors reportedly has 150,000 or so data elements. “Maybe the initial set comes with 30 responses to that data element—30 coded answers,” Faulkner told Healthcare IT News. “Maybe your organization has 20 more to add and wants to change five,” which is possible with Epic’s software. Individual hospitals may appreciate that flexibility, she said, but it can create hurdles when it comes to sharing information with other health systems.
Lloyd is a former Epic employee, as are Redox’s other two co-founders, Luke Bonney and Niko Skievaski. Epic is far from the only records software vendor Redox can integrate with, Lloyd says; others include Cerner (NASDAQ CERN), McKesson (NYSE MCK), Allscripts (NASDAQ MDRX), Athenahealth (NASDAQ ATHN), and eClinicalWorks.
Partnering with a mobile-focused company like Kinvey is a first for Redox, Lloyd says, though many of the applications it currently supports can be used on smartphones and tablets.
“Today, we service applications that have both provider- and patient-facing components,” Lloyd says. “A very common structure is to deliver the provider component as a website and the patient component as a mobile application.”
Customers can license Redox’s interface tools and connect to healthcare providers’ record systems at rates that start at $500 a month.
Redox, launched in 2014, has raised about $4 million to date. The bulk of that total came in a Series A funding round that closed last October.
The startup currently has 24 employees, Lloyd says.