Wouldn't it be great if you could discover a smarter way to integrate?

It may be tempting to view the push toward digitizing health information and embracing electronic medical records (EMRs) as being primarily driven by a desire to enhance patient care. However, traditional logic tells us that the truth is probably somewhere between good intentions and the bottom line. Increased adoption of EMRs will improve patient care by reducing wait times and allowing for the seamless transfer of critical and timely information. However, these improvements alone have never been enough to drive the initial investment of time, cost and risk an organization faces when implementing these new systems.

When the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act was enacted, healthcare organizations, hospitals and physicians finally had an incentive to adopt health information technology more aggressively, especially certified electronic health records. Most organizations viewed this as a win-win situation, since they would be able to pursue their goals for implementing these systems without the risk of investing in an under-adopted technological solution.

Many healthcare organizations embracing EMRs have found themselves grappling with the challenges linked with trying to get multiple disparate systems — often with varying and/or conflicting data structures — to effectively communicate with their EMRs. As deadlines for incentive funding approached and project timelines and budgets continued to expand, the interest in solutions and products capable of handling large-scale integration projects skyrocketed. Healthcare organizations began demanding robust healthcare integration engines capable of receiving and transmitting data from multiple entry points across health networks. Rather than spending several years on a separate round of “incentivizing” healthcare applications to change the way they work, organizations want technologies that enable them to simplify integration, normalize the data and store it in a centralized portal.

Selecting a tool that allows you to do all of this, within the timeframes of the HITECH Act stages, can be overwhelming. When examining integration solutions, here are some key considerations:

  • Flexibility: Don't believe the hype when you hear statements like “no programming required” or “integration in minutes.” Integration is a critical piece of infrastructure and thus should be treated with respect. Look for tools that provide flexibility in terms of defining business rules, adapting on the fly or managing multiple interfaces.
  • Plan for the future: Today you might need to exchange lab results or patient demographics with your EMR, but tomorrow those needs may grow to include images, third-party data and more. Look for organizations who not only understand the current healthcare landscape, but that are developing and designing products built for the next generation of healthcare innovation.
  • Strategic planning: Creating an integration strategy is an ongoing process. Take into account all of the phases of integration: building, testing, deploying and monitoring your interfaces. Focus on finding a solutions provider who can assist you in the places where you have the least amount of knowledge or experience.

While the challenges may seem daunting, new and emerging technologies offer numerous benefits to healthcare organizations and patients. Increased EMR adoption could result in greater efficiency and enhanced patient care. On the flip side, healthcare organizations could find themselves mired in technical issues — such as difficulties exchanging data from disparate sources. However, these challenges are not insurmountable. By critically evaluating an organization's technological needs and available resources and selecting an integration partner that understands their needs, healthcare organizations can not only reduce the time and risk of implementing an EMR, but take full advantage of recent and future technological advances.

About the author

Eliot Muir is founder and CEO of iNTERFACEWARE, a leading integration solutions provider. More information about iNTERFACEWARE can be found at www.interfaceware.com.

Using the right tools to speed up EMR certification
By: HMT Mag
The Source for Healthcare Information Systems Solutions