Categorization of Third-Party Apps in Electronic Health Record App Marketplaces: Systematic Search and Analysis

JMIR Med Inform. 2020 May 29;8(5):e16980. doi: 10.2196/16980.


Background: Third-party electronic health record (EHR) apps allow health care organizations to extend the capabilities and features of their EHR system. Given the widespread utilization of EHRs and the emergence of third-party apps in EHR marketplaces, it has become necessary to conduct a systematic review and analysis of apps in EHR app marketplaces.

Objective: The goal of this review is to organize, categorize, and characterize the availability of third-party apps in EHR marketplaces.

Methods: Two informaticists (authors JR and BW) used grounded theory principles to review and categorize EHR apps listed in top EHR vendors' public-facing marketplaces.

Results: We categorized a total of 471 EHR apps into a taxonomy consisting of 3 primary categories, 15 secondary categories, and 55 tertiary categories. The three primary categories were administrative (n=203, 43.1%), provider support (n=159, 33.8%), and patient care (n=109, 23.1%). Within administrative apps, we split the apps into four secondary categories: front office (n=77, 37.9%), financial (n=53, 26.1%), office administration (n=49, 24.1%), and office device integration (n=17, 8.4%). Within the provider support primary classification, we split the apps into eight secondary categories: documentation (n=34, 21.3%), records management (n=27, 17.0%), care coordination (n=23, 14.4%), population health (n=18, 11.3%), EHR efficiency (n=16, 10.1%), ordering and prescribing (n=15, 9.4%), medical device integration (n=13, 8.2%), and specialty EHR (n=12, 7.5%). Within the patient care primary classification, we split the apps into three secondary categories: patient engagement (n=50, 45.9%), clinical decision support (n=40, 36.7%), and remote care (n=18, 16.5%). Total app counts varied substantially across EHR vendors. Overall, the distribution of apps across primary categories were relatively similar, with a few exceptions.

Conclusions: We characterized and organized a diverse and rich set of third-party EHR apps. This work provides an important reference for developers, researchers, and EHR customers to more easily search, review, and compare apps in EHR app marketplaces.

Keywords: app marketplace; apps; electronic health records; interoperability; medical informatics; software.