In-Depth: Digital health APIs every health startup should know

By Brian Dolan
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25 (and counting) digital health APIs every health startup should know

By Aditi Pai and Brian Dolan

While there are likely many other important digital health APIs that developers should know about, MobiHealthNews has put together the list below as a starter. The dozens of companies listed here have either made APIs available already or promised to do so soon. Our emphasis was on APIs from companies that make data available and for use in third party applications. There are many companies, like EHR software providers, who hope to encourage developers to use data from their EHR systems and build apps that only work for the users of their EHR systems. Our list is focused on data that is shared so it can be used outside of a company's existing user base. Which digital health APIs did we miss?

AdhereTech's smart pill bottle. AdhereTech's smart pill bottle.

AdhereTech: AdhereTech’s smart pill bottle actually senses the amount of medication inside the bottle, which helps in preventing accidental overdose. It also has its cellular connectivity built directly into the bottle rather than into a base station. On its site the company explains that its technology can "integrate with all existing apps, programs, and adherence solutions" through its API, but its not yet sold in the USA. Previous reports about the company have noted that it has an open API that lets third party developers create smartphone apps and websites to help patients track their medications, and the company has said it would integrate its data with that from other smartphone-connected health devices like blood pressure monitors and glucose meters. No apparent information about the API on the company's site, but it is touted as a part of the company's platform on its homepage: AdhereTech API

Basis: When Basis announced its activity tracking smartwatch was available for preorder in April 2011, media reports stated that an API was coming soon. The company offers users a smartwatch that tracks heart rate, motion, calorie counts (through its companion app), sleep stages, and perspiration. Basis has been responding to posts on its forums since 2011 with updates about when its promised API would arrive. One of the more recent updates was in December 2013 when the company responded to a question about projected release date with: "We are working on API access but don’t have a specific timetable". After last week's rumored acquisition of Basis by Intel, it's unclear if we'll ever see that API.

Beddit: Beddit offers users a sensor pad that sits under their mattresses and sends data to a companion app about how they sleep that is then used to generate recommendations for how to improve their sleep. Beddit so far has only announced plans to offer an API for Beddit Pro, which is designed for scientists or other professionals conducting research. It's free to use for non-commercial purposes. Those who want to access the API will be able to do so through Beddit Cloud, which the company expects to be out in the first half of 2014. Beddit API

Fitbit ForceBodyMedia: BodyMedia was a maker of sensor-laden activity tracking armbands, and it was acquired by Jawbone in April 2013. At some point after the acquisition, BodyMedia announced on its website that the BodyMedia FIT API is no longer open to new developers. Instead, people can use the Jawbone UP Developer Platform to access data from what BodyMedia called the "Jawbone/BodyMedia family of products". The company also added that if developers are currently using the BodyMedia FIT API, they will continue to receive support. BodyMedia API

Cigna: Health insurance company Cigna recently launched its Health API at the mHealth Summit last year. The API will give "qualified partners individually elected customer health data," according to the company. Cigna said the API will allow its members to "share real-time health data across multiple third-party applications", including "mobile health and wellness applications built on top of Cigna’s data and supporting services." Click here for more on the Cigna Health API

Fitbit: Fitbit has developed a series of activity trackers, from clip-on devices to wristworn trackers. The company offers an API, but it's in beta and "under construction" according to Fitbit's website. Currently, the API is available to third-party developers to access and modify the Fitbit user's data, such as the user's daily step count or extra data from the tracker. Fitbit API

iHealth Blood PressureGarmin: Garmin, which has developed multi-sport fitness devices, offers an API for websites that works with most of its devices.  With the API, Garmin Communicator Plugin, websites get information on when the Garmin device is plugged into a computer, where the user is traveling and what route he or she took, what the user's data means, and which locations the user tagged as a favorite. Garmin API

HealthTap: HealthTap offers embeddable widgets of its content and features to other app developers, publishers, and physicians who might want to include the content on their websites. Like Doximity, the company also offers an authentication feature that other app developers can use to prove a user is actually a doctor -- assuming HealthTap has them in their database. The company offers APIs for embedding question and answer from its community of patients and doctors and it offers health app developers a widget that shows how many doctors on HealthTap would reccomend the app to their patients. HealthTap API

iHealth Lab: iHealth offers users a variety of digital health tools including blood pressure monitors, connected weight scales, fitness trackers and glucometers. The company's API is open for third party developers and iHealth also provides developers with a sandbox in which to test its API. Data that developers can sync includes weight, blood pressure, blood oxygen, activity reports, and sleep reports. They can also access profile settings, including the user's picture, height, gender, and username. iHealth API