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Co-creating Value in Healthcare with Interoperability

Jul 2 2010   8:33AM GMT

Interface Engine for Interoperability

Posted by: Nirpath
Interface Engine, Interoperability and health information exchange

Clinics, Physician’s offices, laboratories, imaging centers etc… are facing daunting tasks of integrating with each other creating a collaborative environment that provides the satisfying service to the patient.

There are a lots of legacy application written in Visual Basic 6 that integrate with very few selected partners as part of their communication strategy. These applications are designed prioritizing “performance” instead of “flexibility” and most of them follow “point-to-point” interfacing strategy, integrating different application vendors such as Electronic Medical Record (EMR), PACS,  Laboratory Information System (LIS), Hospital Information System (HIS), Radiology Information System (RIS), Transcription etc..

Instead of “Point-to-Point”, the vendors should at least go for “Spoke-Hub” model and implement a centralized solution. The “hub-and-spoke” integration model is a system of connections arranged like a chariot wheel, in which all traffic moves along spokes connected to the hub at the center through the “hub” instead of direct communication to individual partners. The model is commonly used in industries such as  “transport”, “telecommunications” and “freight”. This mode drastically reduces the number of interface points required. A more sophisticated approach to this is Service Oriented Architecture (SOA), but the earlier is sufficient and can be developed with simpler logic and affordable 3rd party utilities, unlike costly Enterprise Service Bus (ESB).

Again, instead of reinventing the wheel, there are already tools – “Interface Engines” available in the market that can be used in the “hub” for giving seamless integration, cutting down the development cost and time drastically.

A modest interface will facilitate communication between two healthcare applications may include –
–    An export endpoint for sending the HL7 or X12 files or content to the “Receiver”.
–    An import endpoint to collect / receive the HL7 or X12 files from the “Sender”.
–    A software application / logic to parse the content and move the data between the end points.
–    A mechanism for handling the queuing the messages – message based system.

The above steps becomes complex, when the number of standards involved are more. In HL7 itself we will have too many types, hard-and-fast rules and same for X12. One “Black Box” export interface will not meet the requirements of every application. Similarly, one “Green Box” import interface will not meet the requirements of every application.

From my personal experience, I recommend to use ready-made software such as JavaCAPS, Microsoft Biztalk Server and other small vendors, instead of trying to create the whole thing from scratch.

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