The new GP Systems of Choice contract could force all GP system suppliers to open their Application Programme Interfaces to third party suppliers.

The idea would coincide with the Government ICT strategy, which states: “The opening up of APIs is part of the government’s overall approach to open ICT and user centred digital services."

Intellect head of healthcare Jon Lindberg said he understands the idea is being discussed internally with the GPSoC team and board.

He hoped it would help open up the market and allow “quick and innovative solutions” to be developed and added on as demand and requirements develop.

However, he said there are a number of unanswered questions around commercially viable models for both third party suppliers and GP system suppliers.

“How do they (GP suppliers) manage these third party suppliers? Who ensures they meet all relevant standards on security, safety, data?” he asked.

Lindberg said Intellect is looking to host an all-day supplier market engagement workshop in December with industry and the GPSoC team to discuss their initial proposal and to invite industry feedback.

Healthcare App Network for Development and Innovation founder Ewan Davis said open APIs are essential to encourage third party developers – particularly app developers – to provide alternative ways for people to access their health records and the digital services that are part of records access.

The impact of a GPSoC contract change would depend on the extent to which suppliers comply and the “extent to which the centre holds them to the fire to do so.”

While all GP system suppliers offer access to their APIs, their commercial terms are sometimes considered “too onerous” by third parties.

This must be balanced against GP suppliers’ legitimate concerns about protecting their systems and intellectual property and the need to fund extra capacity to support other applications, he explained.

Dr Paul Cundy, joint chairman of the BMA and RCGP’s joint IT committee, said that various suppliers already have API arrangements with third parties.

“If this is true it’s good news,” he added.

GP system suppliers told eHealth Insider the change would expand choice for customers, but said technical issues will have to be worked out first.

EMIS Group CEO Sean Riddell said: “With the relevant safeguards and monitoring in place, mandatory APIs available on all clinical software used in the NHS can only be of benefit to both suppliers and customers – supporting innovation and improved patient care.”

Chris Netherton, managing director of Microtest, said the company would welcome the change as a “sensible addition to the contract.”

“As with all things, Quality Assurance, Support and Service level Agreements with third Party Application providers are key, to prevent third Party Applications negatively impacting on the performance and reliability of clinical systems,” he added.

INPS managing director Max Brighton explained that opening APIs to all companies potentially has some technical issues.

“There’s quite a lot of technical work to be done to evaluate what that would look like, particularly in the hosted world where integration with a third party system isn’t as simple as saying ‘you can use our API’,” he said.

A TPP spokeswoman said more than 60 companies are using TPP’s free client-side API.

“TPP have already been actively pursuing these data exchanges and we’ve asked for these requirements to become mandatory in the upcoming GPSoC renewal,” she said.