Health

How health organizations can tackle integration challenges

This is a guest post by David Chao 

It’s a brave new world for healthcare organizations. Hospitals and other providers are teaming up to form Accountable Care Organizations to take a coordinated, community-level approach to health care.

Health insurance companies are no longer passively paying off claims, but are becoming active managers of their policyholders’ health. Providers and payers are having to change what they do and how they do it.

This requires the use of technology to ensure a free flow of information across clinical and non-clinical systems and across legacy, cloud, mobile, and personal device platforms. As the number of systems increase, this integration challenge will only grow.

How can organizations successfully meet this integration challenge?

1. Eliminate point-to-point integrations

All too often in the past, health care organizations have built custom point-to-point integrations between systems, creating a tangled web of connections. Businesses should instead turn to an integration platform that provides a common interface for all systems.

2. Leverage learnings from other industries and adopt a best-of-breed systems approach

Experience from other industries tells us that sharing data through a single, inflexible system is doomed to failure (contrary to what what some heatlhcare vendors would have you believe). Instead, loose coupling of “best-of-breed” applications has proven to be a far more effective model. Initiatives such as the CommonWell alliance and the SMART API platform are on the right track, but more must be done to push healthcare IT vendors to open up their systems.

3. Be pragmatic 

It seems that as a response to outdated technology in healthcare IT, there is a tendency to over-engineer solutions. As Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg said, “done is better than perfect.” Case in point: the 10+ years it took for the HL7 v3 healthcare messaging standard to supersede HL7 v2. For many, v3 is now so bloated that it’s impractical. At the same time, use of v2 is so deep-seated that it can’t easily be replaced. Low-tech examples can be very successful, as we see from the adoption of DIRECT protocol (essentially secure email), and the popularity of the secure e-fax feature in Doximity’s doctor platform. When it comes to solving healthcare interoperability challenges, done is certainly better than perfect.

As we’re all well aware, when it comes to technology, the healthcare industry is struggling to play catch up. The HITECH and Affordable Care Acts have provided a real catalyst for change, and it is up to all of us who work in the healthcare space to ensure we work together to deliver on this promise.

David Chao is a Product Manager at MuleSoft where he leads MuleSoft’s healthcare business. In this role, he works with providers, payers and government bodies to improve patient outcomes and lower costs by solving the challenge of interoperability across healthcare systems.


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