What is there to consider when choosing a new integration engine, as the manager of an integration team?

In my previous role I was the manager of an integration team, that managed the interoperability requirements for a large group of hospitals. During that time, the organisation was involved in the process of choosing a new integration engine, as the legacy engine the organisation was using was due for sunset. 

The hospital organisation needed a migration strategy to plan, procure, prepare, implement, and configure a new integration engine. Requirements for the integration platform, was to ensure rapid interoperability between the organisations IT systems.

Hospitals and healthcare organisations, use integration engines to provide comprehensive support for an extensive range of communication protocols and message formats. They help interface-analysts and hospital IT administrators reduce their workloads, while meeting the complex technical challenges associated with making healthcare data accessible to all stakeholders.

Integration engines must evolve with the fast-moving pace of technology. Scalable, and robust platforms need to integrate with legacy as well as next generation healthcare solutions. So part of the selection process for the new integration engine, was to ensure the requirements of the system were effective for both now and the future. The engine required capabilities of scaling to manage patient data effectively over time. 

There are three key questions to consider.

  1. Installation experience 

    Some integration engines are technically complicated to install, and the installation is a lengthy process – requiring downtime that interrupts the flow of clinical data. I would look for something that is quick, and easy to install, and does not require an expensive technical resource. Installation with a software setup wizard, and a standard installation that doesn’t require any complex prerequisites is a time-saving feature. 

  2. Development / configuration experience

    How easy is it to develop a new interface, e.g. send an ADT message from a patient administration system to a new specialty system (e.g. application used by the Cardiology team) – does this require a software developer to write complicated code? What is the time involved, from understanding the requirements for the interface, to delivering the first working version of it? Look for an engine that combines the ease-of-use of drag-and-drop functionality with flexibility of a Javascript filter for writing custom code. Can a standard ADT interface be developed in a short amount of time, by someone relatively new to the engine, with no complicated code required? 
  1. Learning curve

    How steep is the learning curve for all the people involved in using an integration engine? The developers who develop the interface, the integration support / administration team who install or upgrade the engine, deploy new interfaces into production and monitor the engine? Look for an engine where users can achieve a basic proficiency quickly – in development / configuration of interfaces and deployment of interfaces.

An integration engine that is scalable, powerful, and easy-to-use, is crucial. One that can adapt as new technologies and standards like HL7 FHIR emerge, and evolves with the needs of patients, care providers, and healthcare organisations.

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