In healthcare it seems we are always talking about the latest type of connection you can use HL7, FHIR, ADT and the list goes on; what is even more comical is it changes based on who you are talking to Provider? Payer? Patient?
It feels like the fix for integration has been to create a new type of integration standard. However it is not all about these times of connectors or integrations, we can actually reduce down all this into 3 main areas to focus on.
These type of integrations are usually direct interfaces, like HL7, FHIR or ADT, that connect one system to the next. Information flows one way to share information and it is up to the Target system to decide what to do with it.
Point-to-Point is the most common type of integration in healthcare. You work with your vendors to establish a standard you will use, like HL7, and then make sure your schemas match and then test it.
This method leaves it up to each system to interact with any other systems to handle issues like EMPI or data flow or transformation.
Major hurdles with this integration type is each integration requires its own project timeline and you have to maintain each, we see our clients have 5k+ connections by the time we get start working with them.
On the plus side they are much easier to setup than most any other integration and require the least amount of software and/or license fees.
Health Information Exchange/Integration Engine
These types of integrations use Point-to-Point to move data to an Integration Engine that then forwards it to a target system. This is good for keeping a copy of the information, it is still up to the target system to decide what to do but in this case you can also handle a Point-to-Point reply from the target back to the Integration Engine and back to the Source.
Integration Engines are the second most popular and the most prevalent mostly thanks to the rise of Clinically Integrated Networks and ACOs as well as Population Health. However most of these systems are heavily under utilized and most clients report costs going up to maintain them as well as the team required.
This type of integration can automate the workflows required to talk to all your other solutions such as EMPI and data transformation.
Major hurdles with this integration is the team you will have to deploy and license it also does not eliminate the Point-to-Point connections.
On the plus side you get all you're data is sitting in one place, its stale in the sense its one way and often transformed so it can work with a data viewer, however being in one place is great to be able to manage Population Health metrics and sharing data.
Near Real-Time Bi-Directional Platform
This type of integration is the most robust it offers you a reliable way to manage data moving back and forth from a Source to multiple Targets and back, it can also handle all your Integration Engine needs.
Unlike its counterparts this requires a platform that is able to handle data back and forth and also keep the data current and not stale, meaning minimal transformations or at least real-time transformations so you always have a copy of the live data.
The major difference of a platform is that it encompass multiple other solutions to bring everything holistically into one place. So instead of having an EMPI, Integration Engine, HIE, API platform and so on a platform handles all this for you in one single place.
Major hurdles for this is usually cost and time to get up and running.
On the plus side most of the solutions in this space are fully managed by a vendor, cloud based, and once they are setup it is much easier to add connections and integrations by simply having your vendor follow a schema you have set in place for them.
What is right for you?
Rather than solving a need multiple times over and over it is time to re-evaluate your data integration strategy and see which option is best for you. Picking the best option will help you scale at a much more rapid pace than your competition.
And what is right for you is not right for all health systems, we still have clients that see the most value from Point-to-Point integrations. It really comes down to your needs and when is the right time to deploy it those needs.
There is also cost and scale challenges with each solution as well as implementation time. The first step to figuring out which option is right for you is to consider your current needs and your needs in the next 5 years, from there you can find the solution that fits both the needs and the budget.
Looking for a free evaluation of your integration strategy as well as which options are best for you? We are happy to help, and even if we are not the best option we will recommend one that is!