I recently joined Orion Health Canada for a webinar about investing in regional HIT solutions. The presenters kicked off the webinar with a quote that really resonated with me: “Health information technology is an enabler. It allows access of information and sharing across the care continuum, enabling clinicians to make better healthcare decisions at the point of care.”

Serving as a global mentor for Orion Health regarding Intelligent Integration, this is something that I remind our teams of time and time again, and why it is so important to encourage the use of integration engines, such as the Orion Health Rhapsody Integration Engine.

During the webinar, we discussed some common strategies that healthcare organizations implement in order to achieve the goal of interoperability, including implementing common systems (where everyone uses the same systems with the same configuration). These systems have their pros: consistent, repeatable; and their cons: rigid, expensive. In addition, organizations are working to apply common standards, where every system shares the same standards for exchanging data, regardless of source and destination. Again, applying common standards has its pros: rapidly deployed, flexible, lower cost; as well as its cons: limited reuse. Each strategy, though more often used in some combination, can be enhanced with the use of an integration engine.

There has been quite an evolution of integration engines in healthcare – from hand-coded, point-to-point solutions, to hub and spoke models. Now, there is a progression toward a service-oriented architecture with the service bus model, which is typical in regional solutions, or large hospitals with development teams. The service bus model still focuses on messaging and mappings, but has ESB connections as well, such as web services.

Your integration engine checklist should address the following:

  • Provide a fully-featured healthcare service bus with all the integration tools required
  • Must be easy to use, but still feature rich
  • It should simplify interface development as well as day-to-day monitoring, allowing full visibility and control of connected health networks both in and out of the organization
  • And last, but certainly not least, the solution should have the ability to extend to take care of new types of technology we're seeing, such as web services, HL7 FHIR, etc.

The ability to integrate systems and aggregate patient data to make it meaningful at the point of care serves as the foundation for an organization's population health management initiative. Those organizations utilizing a robust, scalable integration engine are able to provide the right information, at the right time and in the right format for clinicians – resulting in reduced costs, improved care coordination and patient outcomes. If you're interested in hearing the rest of our discussion during the webinar, you can access it here.