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API Testing Helps MedicAlert Increase Agility, Extend Services
Acclerating the roll out of secure, reliable APIs
By: Cynthia Dunlop
Apr. 28, 2014 06:30 AM
MedicAlert pioneered the use of medical ID products and delivers the most dependable, responsive, and trusted Emergency Identification and Medical Information Network. The nonprofit charity provides the functionality of an e-health information exchange for emergencies through an innovative combination of a unique patient identifier linked to a personal health record and a live 24/7 emergency response service.
As MedicAlert continues expanding its role as an innovative provider of healthcare information services, they are leveraging APIs. To accelerate their ability to roll out new APIs in a secure and effective fashion, MedicAlert has relied on automated API testing software from Parasoft.
With Parasoft, the organization has been able to rapidly manage the functional, regression and load testing challenges associated with its new capabilities and offerings. Parasoft has enabled MedicAlert to automate the testing and validating of new APIs – enabling them to provide new healthcare information services and more rapidly respond to business opportunities.
Challenge: Agility and Scalability on Demand
MedicAlert is focused on enabling members to manage their personal health records (PHR) online while maintaining security, privacy and confidentiality. Its repository of personal health information also facilitates the delivery of critical medical information between patients, providers, payers, and emergency responders. These foundations have enabled the organization to grow by constantly introducing new product offerings such as an RFID-based medical card and a USB- enabled portable information device called E- HealthKEY.
Given the high demands associated with such endeavors, MedicAlert recognized the need to
Considering the sensitive nature and life-saving potential of such information, MedicAlert’s IT organization is under severe pressure to ensure its systems are secure, streamlined and effective. APIs represent an opportunity to roll out new offerings rapidly, capitalize on reusability, and ensure the systems can scale up to meet the growing demands of members and partners. “APIs are about making your business more agile – being able to rapidly seize new business opportunities,” says Jorge Mercado, Principal Architect for MedicAlert’s Product Development Group.
To be sure, software quality is an essential factor in meeting these objectives – and this fast-moving organization needed a way to address its demanding quality requirements quickly and effectively. “We needed tools to automate our testing processes,” says Natalie Doan, the team’s QA Engineer. “When I joined the group, we had a very manual approach for testing.”
Action: Capitalizing on Parasoft API Testing
After exploring some of the potential API testing solutions, MedicAlert chose API testing with Parasoft SOAtest. “We found SOAtest and we ran with it,” says Doan. “Parasoft support trained us for one week and we were able to take it from there. We quickly saw that the product had a lot of powerful features that would help us automate our testing activities and processes. Parasoft SOAtest was able to support all the latest standards (ex. security and schema validation standards); we were able to test all areas of our APIs.”
Through the use of Parasoft SOAtest, the team is able to efficiently test different endpoints and ensure broad test coverage within this environment. When new updates or modifications are made to an API, Parasoft SOAtest’s regression testing can be employed to ensure that no defects have been introduced and that previously verified functionality continues to operate as expected. “I can quickly ensure that features from the previous version are in place to support the new version,” adds Doan.
Parasoft also brought powerful capabilities in terms of functionality and load testing. It enables the team to test the performance differences on the system between, say, 10 or 100 users simultaneously, updating their personal health record through the services under various scenarios. For instance, Parasoft can test how a user sending a long, data-intensive message impacts a particular API.
Parasoft also helps the group ensure authentication and authorization of data and users are managed properly. However, the key to Parasoft’s value is the range of capabilities it delivers and coverage it enables. “We load test the system from beginning to end,” says Doan. “I couldn’t do that with other testing tools we were using previously.”
Results: Enhanced API Security, Quality and Performance
In recent years, MedicAlert has realized important benefits from Parasoft along three key dimensions: security; quality; and performance.
Parasoft’s support for security is critical to an organization that manages personal health records for its four million members. It relies on Parasoft to ensure authentication and authorization capabilities are performing as expected – whether this requires the team to test SAML assertions or HTTP authentication procedures. With different levels of security support, MedicAlert benefits from Parasoft’s expansive testing capabilities.
In terms of quality, Parasoft’s regression testing capabilities are particularly valued. Doan notes that she can use the same test suites she built two years ago to test new versions of products such as E-HealthKEY, ensuring that all members are continually supported. “When we upgrade to new versions of an API, I can rerun tests and make sure the new API actually supports the previous functionality,” she says. “It’s reliable. It assures me that the functionality is there and working as expected.”
Without such testing capabilities, MedicAlert would run the risk of upsetting its members. APIs might not perform and member data might not be saved or updated properly. “We have to ensure members have an effective experience and that data is there when you need it in an emergency,” Doan adds. “The data must be valid and correct. It must be rapidly and correctly updated. Parasoft helps us ensure these objectives are consistently met.”
Finally, Parasoft supports MedicAlert’s progressive efforts to enhance online performance for its members and partners. Doan explains that the performance of the organization’s APIs was “quite slow” when they initially launched their effort. Updating one’s health record could take as much as a minute to complete. However, through continual testing, iterations and improvement, the team has been able to reduce the time associated with such transactions to less than four seconds.
“We don’t want our members or partners to wait at all,” says Doan. “So we are continually upgrading our services and enhancing the performance of our system to ensure the members have an effective experience.”
Ultimately, automated testing has enhanced the user’s experience online, strengthened relationships with members and partners, and contributed to the agility of MedicAlert. Parasoft’s delivers a “strong return on investment,” says Doan. “We use it on a daily basis for reliability and support throughout our API infrastructure.”
Such capabilities have clearly strengthened the linkages between IT and the business. “Business leaders at MedicAlert want to be able to react quicker and make our APIs more valuable,” says Mercado. “They want to bring on more members at a faster rate. Being able to more rapidly respond to different business opportunities addresses their objectives – and now they realize that APIs can help the organization meet those goals.”
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