In the earlier posts in this series, you read about the why and how of integration in healthcare. Now, let’s look at what should be your considerations for a successful integration that will help you minimize IT operational costs, shorten time-to-value and reduce risks.
Considerations for Successful Integration
- Define a clear integration strategy for the organization, if required work with integration experts/consultants to define strategy.
- In your architecture, define the integration layer separately from the core business solutions.
- Identify the exact data to be shared across systems.
- Use standards (or less variations) in the technical solutions to keep the integration cost and complexity under control.
- Handle the variations of data for similar integrations in the Integration layer.
- Identify skilled resources not only with the understanding of data requirements, but also with the skills for retrieval, organization, and interpretation of data. This would help mitigate inefficiencies, and results in quicker and effective Integrations.
- Define right layers of security and proper authorization before data exchange.
- Most importantly, choose the right integration model that works for you. Using industry approved standards like HL7, EDI, NCPDP, CCDA etc. should be your first choice so that integrating with more systems is easier; but that may not meet all your unique needs. Integrator platforms from organizations with healthcare expertise could be an ideal solution if they have the partnership or ability to support the specific software vendors that you are looking at.
- Custom integration should be your last option considering the investment of time, specialized skills and resources involved.
Future of Integration
All players in healthcare, from the Government to providers, payers and most importantly patients, are aware about the benefits of seamless access to data through centralized HIEs that is made possible by integration. Also, the transition towards value-based-care, (through connected devices and systems) that is well underway in the industry, is stressing the imperative role of integration in healthcare. Here’re some insights on what the future holds for integration in healthcare:
- Many small and targeted data integration solutions, based on the specialization that individual solution provider possesses, will be coming into market to fill in the gaps in broader solutions. Potentially, every system has to integrate with other systems to use the data effectively.
- Enhanced standards will be established by the industry or compliance agencies for interoperability.
- Community databases of patients would be established using block chain or similar technologies. All systems, then, have to be enabled to send patient data updates like medications, problems, allergies etc. to the community databases. There might be a well-established information systems audit that guarantees data integrity across organizations. This data might be used by various systems. Community databases will help providers to take a holistic view of a patient’s health beyond the clinical setting and help them to take better clinical decisions.
- The increased usage of multiple technology devices in our industry would necessitate real-time integration between hardware and software systems. Example, patient vitals collected via hand-held devices could be sent to a centralized software. Centralized software (with artificial intelligence) can recommend pro-active measures based on the data sent to patients. Such bidirectional integration with patient devices will get providers real-time data which in-turn helps in taking pro-active measures to manage health.
Healthcare faces simultaneous challenges and opportunities. It is challenged by the vast increase in data from all sources, which is only going to grow further with new innovations. By accessing right data at the right time, the vision of delivering personalized and preventative healthcare to patients is now very much within reach.
To enable that, we must focus on getting efficient integration solutions, by building easily maintainable systems. This, in turn will control and reduce cost, which will be a welcome measure for all patients.
Let’s hope to see the industry moving away from reactive treatments to adopting more preventive healthcare treatments with the new innovations.