I’ve long been a big fan of APIs in technology. It’s really powerful to open up your software so that outside developers can create really cool applications on top of your software. Think where Twitter would be today if it weren’t for their API. Most of the best Twitter clients were not built by Twitter. That’s just one simple example.
With that in mind, I was interested to see how the FitBit API was doing in its development. It’s been around for a couple years, so my hope was that I’d find a mature API with some good documentation and most importantly a strong developer community around it.
It seems like Fitbit has made it really easy to sign up and start using their API. That’s a good thing. Far too many in healthcare have an API, but they put up these enormous barriers for developers to start using it. When you’re dealing with PHI, you do have to take a serious approach to access, but the intent should be to create as many of those trusted API relationships as possible.
Next, I took a look at the Fitbit API documentation. Most of you won’t want to look at the API documentation since you’re not a developer. However, if you look at this Fitbit API Explorer page, you’ll get a good view of what functions are possible with the Fitbit API. They have a set of Ruby, PHP, and .Net Client libraries which is great (Although they’re not directly developed or supported by Fitbit). I do wish they had a really good sample app that uses their API. I’ve found a great sample application is incredibly valuable to developers that want to start using that API.
Finally, I took a look at the Fitbit discussion group. I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t more activity here. It does seem that the questions in the group do get eventually answered, but I’d have like to see a bigger Fitbit presence in the forum. The most active threads are the feature requests and announcements threads which isn’t too much of a surprise. There were only 15-20 active threads in April.
All in all, it looks like Fitbit has created a pretty solid API. I could see myself using it for a future project.
I’m interested to know what other APIs you’ve found in healthcare. What other healthcare companies are putting out really good APIs? Have you used the Fitbit API? What was your experience? Is it reliable? What are the best apps in healthcare that leverage someone’s API?