What Is the LexisNexis API and How Can You Mine It?
In 2016, the 21st Century Cures Act introduced for the first time legal rules for interoperability and how patients access their health data. The Cures Act includes a section covering consumer use of APIs. API use is becoming more widespread in healthcare organizations, and companies are developing applications to query LexisNexis API databases for valuable healthcare data in several important areas, such as:
- Payer data
- Pharmaceutical data
- Provider data
- Life sciences
- Health IT
Ultimately the incorporation of LexisNexis databases into healthcare data querying services will enable better data governance and allow patients and providers to find information faster. To prepare for the coming changes, organizations should take the time to learn what LexisNexis is and how it can improve healthcare data management. In this guide, you’ll learn what APIs and LexisNexis are and how you may soon use them in your field.
- API-enabled databases in LexisNexis containing healthcare-relevant data are becoming more widely available.
- Forward-looking healthcare organizations should familiarize themselves with database services such as LexisNexis and what applications to use to find the data they need.
- The LexisNexis API (WSApi) is a powerful data mining tool that enables highly specific searches in both structured and unstructured data stores.
What Is the LexisNexis API?
LexisNexis is a privately owned data management and vending company that sells subscriptions to data analytics services and access to the company’s private databases through client portals. Among these subscription services, LexisNexis offers the Academic Web Services API (WSApi), colloquially known as the LexisNexis REST API. The WSApi allows users to text mine LexisNexis databases and full-text news collections. The WSApi has a limited query capacity and return times for users vary widely based on the current global workload in the system. Using the WSApi directly requires advanced IT skills and training, including proficiency in programming languages and tools such as Python, JSON, and XML.
While the preceding paragraph has a lot to unpack for readers unfamiliar with IT terminology, even non-specialists with an enthusiasm for digital transformation can get a handle on what the WSApi does with a closer look at some of the terms involved.
What Is an API?
API stands for application programming interface, a set of rules and processes for integrating application software so that different applications can communicate with each other and exchange information, regardless of their different implementations. In effect, APIs act like communication contracts. They contain protocols that determine how applications structure requests and responses between each other.
This functionality greatly facilitates application development. In today’s increasingly cloud-native application environment, speed and agility in application development rely on connecting a web of various microservices through APIs. APIs allow applications to see what you want them to see through an API application management system, making it possible for devices of any type – applications, mobile apps, Internet of Things (IoT) devices – to communicate with your backend systems. Having public APIs in the application helps you connect users or clients with the information they want while keeping your own internal management systems in control of what information is available.
What Is Text Mining?
Text mining, or text data mining, refers to converting unstructured text into a structured format that enables algorithms to find patterns and connect data that answers structured queries. As approximately 80-90% of the data stored in the world’s databases is unstructured – meaning it has no predetermined format such as rows and columns – text mining has the potential to turn vast quantities of opaque data into a valuable resource that provides actionable insights.
Text mining tools use pattern recognition techniques and natural language processing to consume, organize, and make enormous machine-readable volumes of data – in text, audio, and video files – that organizations would otherwise never be able to use. The WSApi is a text mining tool connected to some of the world’s largest stores of publicly available information.
What Is a Database Query?
Regarding databases – stores of structured data organized into rows, columns, and other relational parameters – queries are questions structured so that databases can respond with the desired data sets. Writing queries that work requires using a structured query language (SQL).
To give an example of how a language like SQL works in a database, consider looking for a particular book in a database inventory.
Here’s a database entry:
Title: Midnight’s Children
Author: Salman Rushdie
Publisher: Jonathan Cape
The necessary SQL to find this exact book looks like this:
SELECT * FROM Books WHERE Title=’ Midnight’s Children’ AND Author=’ Salman Rushdie’;
If the user didn’t know the title and just wanted a list of books by a particular author, the appropriate query would just ask the database to SELECT * FROM Books WHERE Author=’ an author’s name’;
Putting this all together, APIs, text mining tools, and query languages are all resources the WSApi uses to help LexisNexis subscribers get the information they want from the company’s sprawling databases.
Mining With WSApi
Users most commonly interact with LexisNexis through a custom application connected to specific databases such as those for legal records or published news. Rather than requiring users to write SQL queries, most applications help users create them through menu selections. For example, when searching a news database, users would likely select search parameters such as a range of dates, location or country, and one or two options from a predefined list of topics.
When users submit searches with parameters, the application generates the appropriate SQL – out of sight to the user – and queries the database through its API. A user’s ability to find the data they’re looking for largely depends on which databases they’re searching, the intuitiveness of the application UI, and what kind of advanced options the application contains for creating highly specific searches. In the video below, you can see how this works in the context of a university’s library application for searching for legal records in South Africa. Although the context is specific, it typifies what users usually see while working with LexisNexis applications.
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