Best IT Practices for Agile Healthcare Integration and Interoperability


Increasingly overburdened healthcare organizations in the Middle East are facing mounting pressures to improve patient outcomes and meet ever-changing regulatory requirements. If that wasn’t challenging enough, they must accomplish this while struggling to manage an explosive growth in the amount of data they handle. This growth in data volumes is only expected to continue, which presents unique storage and transmission challenges for healthcare organizations.


Across the healthcare industry, one of the biggest challenges, albeit not a new one, is data integration. With information typically fragmented across disparate systems, and without the right strategy or tools, the task of integrating data is seen as too difficult, time consuming, and expensive for most healthcare organizations. Adding to this challenge is the growing diversity and complexity of the technology landscape. But in order to remain viable, data integration is mandatory. It’s the key to any healthcare initiative—from achieving compliance and transparency, to determining actual costs for care and improving patient outcomes.


The journey to agile Healthcare integration


As payments are increasingly tied to patient outcomes, it will be even more imperative for healthcare organizations to facilitate integration with systems outside of their networks. Especially as new technologies emerge, new standards are initiated and new concepts in system integration are introduced, healthcare organizations must have an infrastructure that meets the requirements of an agile integration platform that includes scalability for growth, security, high availability, agility, and accessibility.


An end-to-end integration platform


To achieve comprehensive and agile integration and improve patient care outcomes, your integration platform must enable you to connect technology with legacy systems to ensure that the right information is transmitted to the right person at the right time. The platform should
also allow information exchange among numerous software applications, data repositories and information technology systems within and outside your enterprise, as well as:

  • Integrate any data format or system, from medical and business to health clearinghouses
    or Health Information Exchanges (HIEs)
  • Share data in real time
  • Leverage a variety of software applications (especially those that have been added over
    time via acquisitions or through growth)
  • Translate data into modern and proprietary interoperability standards


Scalable to meet growth demands


Healthcare standards are not static. To maintain its effectiveness, your integration platform must not be either. As these standards become more integrated, the volume of transactions and data will increase as well, and your technology infrastructure must be ready to support this.


While increased data—and the information it contains—can help improve diagnosis and treatment, it places a greater burden on the integration infrastructure. Without a platform that can scale to new connectivity requirements, healthcare organizations turn to point solutions or customized interfaces that require time-consuming and costly development time for each subsequent change or update. This time spent maintaining core applications detracts from the focus on improving patient care. Additionally, organizations lacking the scalability to process and transmit large volumes of data won’t be able to substantiate their quality of care, which will ultimately undermine their ability to achieve accountable care objectives.


Security to protect patient privacy


Because other providers must be brought into the coordination of care in any healthcare system, it’s no longer sufficient to be able to securely exchange information only within the care network. Yet transmitting data over the Internet poses a critical (and costly) security threat. This is why it is essential that your integration platform provides end-to-end data encryption and transmission across the entire integration infrastructure.


High availability to ensure quality care


In the past, health organizations did not view their integration platform as a Tier 1, strategic platform. But in today’s healthcare environment, no provider has a tolerance for downtime. Most organizations rely heavily on both business and clinical applications around the clock, so visibility into the health of these applications, complete with logging and monitoring features, is important as are real-time alerts in the event of a system failure—to enable diagnosis and remediation before it affects patient care.


Agility to meet ever-changing standards


While some vendors propose a one-size-fits-all integration solution, the reality is that the integration platform must be agile enough to connect at any time with hundreds, or even thousands, of other systems and to continually update that connectivity. It must also support a wide range of healthcare standards and it should enable you to keep pace as these standards change, to increase data volumes, and to respond to new interoperability needs through rapid application integration. Another important consideration is that an open-platform solution, adaptable by data model (such as a CCD) and by data protocol (such as raw TCP/IP, HTTP, and secure FTP), will allow your development teams to use established skills to connect with outside organizations and to translate those standards into data that enhances health records. Organizations that implement point solutions, rather than those based on open-platform standards, are often forced to wait for vendors to integrate new standards into their applications—often at great expense to the health organization.


Accessible data is meaningful data


Many health organizations are striving to reduce the overall cost of maintaining legacy systems and applications, but it can cost millions of dollars and take weeks for a third-party Electronic Health Records (EHR) vendor to extract data that resides in isolated repositories. To avoid these costs, make sure that your integration platform enables you to expose and use data from disparate sources, applications, and processes. This helps to streamline message exchange between hospital applications, databases, and external systems, resulting in data that’s cost-effectively transformed into meaningful, value-rich information. Further, this enables you to apply analytics to track trends and establish care strategies.





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