Breaking Down the Siloes for Connected Care

At the top of your list should be the implementation of an enterprise-caliber integration platform, one developed to perform in a mission-critical healthcare environment.

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Healthcare is characterized by new discoveries and breakthroughs, but the data that is a key for medical advancements, cost containment and quality of patient care is disintegrated, costly and stored in silos.

Many caregivers and their support teams rarely get all the information they need to make fully informed decisions, which results in frustrated patients, high operating costs, and constraints on continuity in care, or, in simplest terms, disconnected care.

Healthcare data is both critical and sensitive. When true data integration is lacking, healthcare organizations waste valuable time on manual data collection and discontinuous processes.

Data integration is not a luxury; in fact, it's a necessity. Healthcare organizations can achieve data integration by harnessing the power of solutions that are prevalent in many of today's care settings.

Challenges of Connected Care
As members of the healthcare market, we understand that the creation of the HITECH Act under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) set in motion the implementation of interoperable health information technology and EHRs. But what many fail to recognize is that it's not enough for organizations to have simply implemented an EHR. Organizations that will be successful in the modern world will embrace the true essence of meaningful use and extend the capabilities of their EHRs to better communicate with systems within one's organization and with public and private organizations outside of the health organization's four walls.

Today, a health episode is rarely completed in a single facility or location. Those providing patient care -- regardless of whether it is by way of large health systems, physician practices, rehabilitation facilities, or other healthcare organizations -- are best equipped to make care decisions when they have timely access to the patient's overall health history. By having access and the ability to collaborate across facilities, health organizations can avoid carrying out redundant tests, procedures, and repetitive filing of medical claims that increase costs for the health organization and the patient.

Key Interoperability Capabilities for Healthcare Organizations
As more healthcare organizations look to integration platforms to break down the silos for connected care, IT executives and their administrators should consider the functionality and capabilities of solutions against their unique needs and challenges, but certain components should not be overlooked. 

First and foremost is the implementation of an enterprise-caliber integration platform, one developed to perform in a mission-critical healthcare environment. 

Second, industry standard protocols and extensibility tools should be natively built into the platform to enable the flexibility needed across the typical diverse healthcare environment.

Scalability, without comprising performance, should be proven, and healthcare organizations need not consume hardware resources to do so. Rather, they should adopt solutions that will accommodate the changing dynamic of care delivery models over time. When transmitting data, speed matters, and security should be top of mind.

For example, one must consider a solution with built-in high availability that enables an organization to configure for a desired level of uptime, scheduled system maintenance, and upgrades without disruption in services.

Lastly, an integration platform should allow IT administrators to aggregate disparate information systems and data regardless of the source system, message format, transmission protocol, or data instance, inside or outside organizations' four walls and on-premise or in the cloud. Hybrid environments will become the new norm in 2013, and the delivery of quality care will be even more dependent on data from information systems. Success will rest in the organization's ability to achieve an interoperable, integrated healthcare enterprise. 

What Does Success Look Like?
The advantages of deploying an enterprise integration interoperability strategy, enabled by a proven integration platform, are real. They can transform a collection of isolated and independent data across siloed software applications into a collaborative stream of interconnected information and automated processes. From a technical perspective, enterprise application integration can lead to application consolidation, systems replacement, and process automation that eliminate redundancies, inconsistencies, and inefficiencies.

One Health System's Success With System Integration
One organization -- an undisputed leader in rural health located in Maine, which prefers to be unnamed -- saw tremendous success with a robust integration platform. A recipient of the 2008 Nicholas E. Davies Organizational Award of Excellence from the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), this healthcare organization faced the challenge of needing to integrate data from several different independently operating systems.

In this case, its clinical information system for the inpatient care setting is comprised of information captured and processed by the Cerner Millennium application suite and other departmental systems (both clinical and non-clinical). The Cerner applications include pharmacy, lab, radiology, clinical documentation, surgery, intensive care documentation, emergency department, medical records, document imaging, electronic signature, electronic medication administration record, clinical data repository, registration, and scheduling.

Given the multitude of information sources, the organization chose to use a comprehensive system integration interface engine, in this case our Cloverleaf solution, to provide users real-time access to all information across the multiple applications. For example, primary care EHR data is stored on the GE Centricity system that integrates with Cerner Millennium ADT, registration, scheduling, laboratory, and radiology results. Additionally, the system creates linkages with external systems like Siemens for patient accounting and billing, Infor Lawson for financials, as well as other departmental applications to streamline processes.

In the end, this health provider can efficiently and securely transmit clinical orders and results, ADT, and charge information between Cerner and the external systems based on events that trigger the exchange of data. The use of HL7 protocols and the integration engine provide the definition and framework for electronic exchange of data.

The good news for healthcare is that everyone, from physicians and providers to device manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies, government, private insurers and other payers, and even academic and research institutes, benefits from more efficient and successful patient outcomes. All parties also benefit from instant access to accurate health information for patients and non-patients. 

Breaking down the silos with the right enterprise integration tools can open up a connected world of opportunity to improve outcomes and save lives.

Becky Adams is director of global healthcare industry marketing for Infor.

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