Welcome!

Cloud Expo Authors: Roger Strukhoff, Pat Romanski, Gilad Parann-Nissany, Elizabeth White, Trevor Parsons

Related Topics: Cloud Expo, Java, XML, Wireless, SOA & WOA, Virtualization, SDN Journal

Cloud Expo: Article

Accelerate Mobile Application Development within Healthcare

Using API Management and Governance

Slide Deck from Gene Dragotta and Sachin Agarwal's Cloud Expo Presentation: A Peek into the Future of Mobile-Enabled Health Care

While unprecedented technological advances have been made in healthcare in areas such as genomics, digital imaging and Health Information Systems, access to this information has not been easy for both the healthcare provider and the patient themselves. Regulatory compliance and controls, information lock-in in proprietary Electronic Health Record systems and security concerns have made it difficult to share data across health care providers.

The opportunities inherent in mobile technology are dramatically changing the way healthcare business gets done. Healthcare provider professionals are adopting mobile devices and tablets as an alternative to desktops/laptops and using mobile applications to augment gaps in existing patient management system capabilities. Developing mobile applications for the healthcare industry has some unique challenges, particularly protecting your backend data services while making them available to mobile application frameworks and SDKs.

Mobile applications utilize messaging patterns similar to the client/server and AJAX patterns, however unlike desktop clients, mobile devices have to minimize client side processing to maximize battery life and also keep network chatter to a basic minimum. This is achieved by using RESTful APIs with machine-readable formats like JSON. The availability, reliability and performance of these API-based services are critical to the successful deployment and operating of your application.  Now add some healthcare domain requirements (encryption, security, etc.,) to this environment and there is a lot of work to do in addition to the actual coding of your mobile application.  An API management system will simplify exposing and consuming backend healthcare services through a variety of different channels. To successfully implement an API, you will need a tool that will enable simple enforcement of API controls, continuous monitoring capabilities, performance management, and assurance of high availability.

An API management system will typically provide capabilities for creating and registering service as follows:

  • Secure API Services
  • Manage API Lifecycles
  • Mediate and Virtualize Services
  • Govern Access to Services
  • Integrate Services and their Data
  • Support Authentication and Authorization for all APIs and Services, including OAuth, OpenID, SAML, Kerberos, WS-Security, LDAP and XACML
  • Support for all Major Security Standards, including WS*and WS-I

The focus of this article is to discuss how a unified API management and SOA governance platform can accelerate your organization's ability to deliver reliable, scalable and secure mobile applications for healthcare providers. First we will begin with the major technical challenges encountered when deploying healthcare-based mobile applications. Then we will discuss API management and governance platform expectations that can help you overcome these challenges such as the following:

  • Data Encryption
  • Access Control - Role and Application-based Access
  • Integration / Orchestration of data from Multiple Provider Systems
  • Mediation
  • Quality of Service Control
  • Usage Analytics / Event Management

Security - Encryption, Authentication and Authorization
A PKI facilitates users, applications and systems to exchange insecure data safely by encrypting it prior to transmission. Unlike traditional cryptography that uses private keys also known as symmetric cryptography, the public key infrastructure utilizes public key cryptography or asymmetric cryptography. This is used to authenticate a user or manage message encryption.

With asymmetrical cryptography, a public and private key are created simultaneously using the same algorithm (such as RSA) by the certificate authority. The private key is given to the requesting party and the public key is made publicly available (embedded within the certificate) in a location that all parties can access. The private key is used to decrypt text that has been encrypted with the public key. The certificate is used to authenticate the user.

Typically a PKI provides:

  • A certificate authority (CA) who issues and verifies the digital certificate. A certificate includes the public key or information about the public key
  • A registration authority (RA) acts as the verifier for the certificate authority before a digital certificate is issued to a requestor
  • Persistent storage of the certificates and keys
  • A certificate management system (creation, import, export, revocation, etc.)

In addition to authenticating with a validated digital certificate, using SAML, an SSO token, basic HTTP authentication, an X.509 certificate, an application token or a third-party IAM system are all popular approaches that can be used to securely connect your mobile application to back-end systems and data services residing with the HIE enterprise.

When health provider personnel authenticate themselves on systems that access patient health records; it's likely that different employees will require and qualify for various levels of data access based on their job description. For this reason, a role-based authentication / authorization framework is recommended. For example, the front office personnel may only have a need to see basic information such as patient demographics, insurance and medication information and a nurse might be required to have access to the entire patient's medical record. Having a framework for implementing role-based access will easily help filter and mask patient data attributes from un-authorized use.

Mediation and Service Orchestration
Where are your patient's medical records, how many sources of data needed to be aggregated, transformed and merged to assemble them, what formats of data do these sources of patient record fragments support etc.? Architects and developers typically face these questions when working with multiple systems both internally and externally to assemble a patient's holistic and contiguous health history or continuity of care document (HL7 CCD). Often developer are using integration engines such as Rhapsody, Mirth, etc., to transform HL7 messages, legacy EDI messages, database data, along with other source of patient information into in XML and usually exposed via a SOAP service.

Most mobile UX frameworks support some form of a model-view-controller runtime design pattern or at a minimum provide a way to perform an XMLHttpRequest to retrieve data. Whether using an MVC pattern or a lower-level URL request, REST is the preferred method (over SOAP) primarily for the simplicity of setting up the request. A SOAP service will return an XML document. When using a JavaScript-based framework such as Sencha Touch, using JSON for data objects is usually preferred. The mobile app framework's data store component prefers the use of a REST service and the data it returns to be in JSON format. With this approach, the integration engine is providing a SOAP/XML service, unless we re-write and convert the SOAP service to a REST service, the mobile application will need to mediate between the SOAP and REST protocols and XML and JSON object formats.

In addition to mediation, service orchestration and the creation of compound services are a common requirement for health care oriented mobile applications. As an example, in order to create a patient's HL7 CCD, patient data usually resides within multiple systems, data service requests (primitives) to these systems will need to be orchestrated to form the resulting CCD dataset. In some cases, data returned from some of the primitive service requests may require some transformation or may be used as input to a subsequent request. Encapsulating and abstracting multiple primitive requests and any associated logic into a single composite service operation will reduce overall mobile application implementation complexity and message traffic between the mobile device and the HIE data center.

Policy-based Governance Controls for API Services
In most cases, we probably want different licenses with different levels of service (and access) to the backend APIs that enable our mobile applications. The levels of service could be measured in throughput, the bandwidth consumed over time, concurrency and availability.

Within the realm of health care you might want to have some specific controls or governance policies regarding the use of the HIE's back-end system services or APIs. Below are some QoS and SLA examples.

  • Allow APIs to be called no more than 10 times per minute per device
  • Allow devices to consume no more than 100MB per hour
  • Prevent devices from outside the trusted country list (user-defined)
  • Allow devices with this IP address range x.x.x.x-x.x.x.x to access the service layer
  • Prevent Denial-of-Service attacks with quota management and white/blacklisting
  • Only allow certain APIs to be called by specific user roles

The back-end services within the HEI should be deployed within an infrastructure that can provide a similar level of API governance.

Usage Analytics
In order to understand how your HEI back-end service layer is performing and being utilized by its application consumers, the API management platform should provide access to real-time API usage statistics, API status and event and SLA violation monitoring. These analytics can be used for troubleshooting, performance tuning, threat detection and various usage reports.

Most enterprises utilize a dashboard and reporting system that ingests telemetry data from a variety of systems within the enterprise. Data from these systems are combined to create a complete picture of enterprise system activity. Therefore it may become important to have a capability that can export or publish API management system telemetry data to an enterprise activity monitoring system or reporting data warehouse.

Conclusion
Healthcare-focused mobile applications contain complex use cases and have strict operational requirements. Security models, message protocol mediation services, service usage statistic collection, data transformations and service orchestration functions are all features that can easily be added to your mobile application by leveraging and integrating an API management and governance system with your service oriented architecture.

More Stories By Gene Dragotta and Sachin Agarwal

Gene Dragotta is a senior software developer and architect with 20 years of experience building distributed systems for the finance, insurance, government, military and the health care sector domains. Mr. Dragotta recently completed and deployed a mobile solution that utilizes the HL7 messaging protocol to remotely manage emergency battlefield dialysis treatments from a mobile device. Additionally Gene spent 3 years as a Tibco / Data Synapse Cloud Computing solutions architect building private and hybrid cloud computing infrastructures and migrating applications to those environments.

Sachin Agarwal is Vice President of Product Marketing and Strategy at SOA Software. He possesses more than 17 years of enterprise and startup experience focussing on using disruptive technologies to drive business growth. His expertise spans from infrastructure technologies like security and middleware to business centric applications like social, digital marketing, and analytics. At SOA Software he drives product marketing, strategy and customer adoption for API Management solutions. Prior to SOA Software, he held senior management roles in Product Management and Development at Oracle, Oblix and Infosys.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


Cloud Expo Breaking News
File sync and share. Endpoint protection. Both are massive opportunities for today’s enterprise thanks to their business benefits and widespread user appeal. But one size does not fit all, especially user-adopted consumer technologies. Organizations must apply the right enterprise-ready tool for the job in order to properly manage and protect endpoint data. In his session at 14th Cloud Expo, Michael Bachman, Senior Enterprise Systems Architect at Code42, he will discuss how the synergy of an enterprise platform – where sync/share and endpoint protection converge – delivers incredible value for the business.
Simply defined the SDDC promises that you’ll be able to treat “all” of your IT infrastructure as if it’s completely malleable. That there are no restrictions to how you can use and assign everything from border controls to VM size as long as you stay within the technical capabilities of the devices. The promise is great, but the reality is still a dream for the majority of enterprises. In his session at 14th Cloud Expo, Mark Thiele, EVP, Data Center Tech, at SUPERNAP, will cover where and how a business might benefit from SDDC and also why they should or shouldn’t attempt to adopt today.
Today, developers and business units are leading the charge to cloud computing. The primary driver: faster access to computing resources by using the cloud's automated infrastructure provisioning. However, fast access to infrastructure exposes the next friction point: creating, delivering, and operating applications much faster. In his session at 14th Cloud Expo, Bernard Golden, VP of Strategy at ActiveState, will discuss why solving the next friction point is critical for true cloud computing success and how developers and business units can leverage service catalogs, frameworks, and DevOps to achieve the true goal of IT: delivering increased business value through applications.
APIs came about to help companies create and manage their digital ecosystem, enabling them not only to reach more customers through more devices, but also create a large supporting ecosystem of developers and partners. While Facebook, Twitter and Netflix were the early adopters of APIs, large enterprises have been quick to embrace the concept of APIs and have been leveraging APIs as a connective tissue that powers all interactions between their customers, partners and employees. As enterprises embrace APIs, some very specific Enterprise API Adoption patterns and best practices have started emerging. In his session at 14th Cloud Expo, Sachin Agarwal, VP of Product Marketing and Strategy at SOA Software, will talk about the most common enterprise API patterns and will discuss how enterprises can successfully launch an API program.
MapDB is an Apache-licensed open source database specifically designed for Java developers. The library uses the standard Java Collections API, making it totally natural for Java developers to use and adopt, while scaling database size from GBs to TBs. MapDB is very fast and supports an agile approach to data, allowing developers to construct flexible schemas to exactly match application needs and tune performance, durability and caching for specific requirements.
The social media expansion has shown just how people are eager to share their experiences with the rest of the world. Cloud technology is the perfect platform to satisfy this need given its great flexibility and readiness. At Cynny, we aim to revolutionize how people share and organize their digital life through a brand new cloud service, starting from infrastructure to the users’ interface. A revolution that began from inventing and designing our very own infrastructure: we have created the first server network powered solely by ARM CPU. The microservers have “organism-like” features, differentiating them from any of the current technologies. Benefits include low consumption of energy, making Cynny the ecologically friendly alternative for storage as well as cheaper infrastructure, lower running costs, etc.
Next-Gen Cloud. Whatever you call it, there’s a higher calling for cloud computing that requires providers to change their spots and move from a commodity mindset to a premium one. Businesses can no longer maintain the status quo that today’s service providers offer. Yes, the continuity, speed, mobility, data access and connectivity are staples of the cloud and always will be. But cloud providers that plan to not only exist tomorrow – but to lead – know that security must be the top priority for the cloud and are delivering it now. In his session at 14th Cloud Expo, Kurt Hagerman, Chief Information Security Officer at FireHost, will detail why and how you can have both infrastructure performance and enterprise-grade security – and what tomorrow's cloud provider will look like.
Web conferencing in a public cloud has the same risks as any other cloud service. If you have ever had concerns over the types of data being shared in your employees’ web conferences, such as IP, financials or customer data, then it’s time to look at web conferencing in a private cloud. In her session at 14th Cloud Expo, Courtney Behrens, Senior Marketing Manager at Brother International, will discuss how issues that had previously been out of your control, like performance, advanced administration and compliance, can now be put back behind your firewall.
More and more enterprises today are doing business by opening up their data and applications through APIs. Though forward-thinking and strategic, exposing APIs also increases the surface area for potential attack by hackers. To benefit from APIs while staying secure, enterprises and security architects need to continue to develop a deep understanding about API security and how it differs from traditional web application security or mobile application security. In his session at 14th Cloud Expo, Sachin Agarwal, VP of Product Marketing and Strategy at SOA Software, will walk you through the various aspects of how an API could be potentially exploited. He will discuss the necessary best practices to secure your data and enterprise applications while continue continuing to support your business’s digital initiatives.
The revolution that happened in the server universe over the past 15 years has resulted in an eco-system that is more open, more democratically innovative and produced better results in technically challenging dimensions like scale. The underpinnings of the revolution were common hardware, standards based APIs (ex. POSIX) and a strict adherence to layering and isolation between applications, daemons and kernel drivers/modules which allowed multiple types of development happen in parallel without hindering others. Put simply, today's server model is built on a consistent x86 platform with few surprises in its core components. A kernel abstracts away the platform, so that applications and daemons are decoupled from the hardware. In contrast, networking equipment is still stuck in the mainframe era. Today, networking equipment is a single appliance, including hardware, OS, applications and user interface come as a monolithic entity from a single vendor. Switching between different vendor'...
Cloud backup and recovery services are critical to safeguarding an organization’s data and ensuring business continuity when technical failures and outages occur. With so many choices, how do you find the right provider for your specific needs? In his session at 14th Cloud Expo, Daniel Jacobson, Technology Manager at BUMI, will outline the key factors including backup configurations, proactive monitoring, data restoration, disaster recovery drills, security, compliance and data center resources. Aside from the technical considerations, the secret sauce in identifying the best vendor is the level of focus, expertise and specialization of their engineering team and support group, and how they monitor your day-to-day backups, provide recommendations, and guide you through restores when necessary.
Cloud scalability and performance should be at the heart of every successful Internet venture. The infrastructure needs to be resilient, flexible, and fast – it’s best not to get caught thinking about architecture until the middle of an emergency, when it's too late. In his interactive, no-holds-barred session at 14th Cloud Expo, Phil Jackson, Development Community Advocate for SoftLayer, will dive into how to design and build-out the right cloud infrastructure.
You use an agile process; your goal is to make your organization more agile. What about your data infrastructure? The truth is, today’s databases are anything but agile – they are effectively static repositories that are cumbersome to work with, difficult to change, and cannot keep pace with application demands. Performance suffers as a result, and it takes far longer than it should to deliver on new features and capabilities needed to make your organization competitive. As your application and business needs change, data repositories and structures get outmoded rapidly, resulting in increased work for application developers and slow performance for end users. Further, as data sizes grow into the Big Data realm, this problem is exacerbated and becomes even more difficult to address. A seemingly simple schema change can take hours (or more) to perform, and as requirements evolve the disconnect between existing data structures and actual needs diverge.
SYS-CON Events announced today that SherWeb, a long-time leading provider of cloud services and Microsoft's 2013 World Hosting Partner of the Year, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 14th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 10–12, 2014, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York. A worldwide hosted services leader ranking in the prestigious North American Deloitte Technology Fast 500TM, and Microsoft's 2013 World Hosting Partner of the Year, SherWeb provides competitive cloud solutions to businesses and partners around the world. Founded in 1998, SherWeb is a privately owned company headquartered in Quebec, Canada. Its service portfolio includes Microsoft Exchange, SharePoint, Lync, Dynamics CRM and more.
The world of cloud and application development is not just for the hardened developer these days. In their session at 14th Cloud Expo, Phil Jackson, Development Community Advocate for SoftLayer, and Harold Hannon, Sr. Software Architect at SoftLayer, will pull back the curtain of the architecture of a fun demo application purpose-built for the cloud. They will focus on demonstrating how they leveraged compute, storage, messaging, and other cloud elements hosted at SoftLayer to lower the effort and difficulty of putting together a useful application. This will be an active demonstration and review of simple command-line tools and resources, so don’t be afraid if you are not a seasoned developer.