According to Health IT Portal, “Having an integrated health IT infrastructure allows a healthcare organization and its providers to streamline the flow of data from one department to the next. Not all health settings, however, find themselves in this situation. Either through business agreements or vendor selection processes, many a healthcare organization has to spend considerable time and resources getting their disparate health IT systems to talk to each.”
In other words, you can’t leverage Health Information Exchanges (HIEs) without a sound data integration strategy. This is something I’ve ranted about for years. The foundation of any entity-to-entity exchange, health, finance, or other, is that all relevant systems freely communicate, and thus able to consume and produce information that’s required by any information exchange.
The article cites the case of Memorial Healthcare, a community health care system in Owosso, MI. Memorial Healthcare has Meditech on the hospital side and Allscripts in its physician offices. Frank Fear, the CIO of Memorial Healthcare, spent the last few years working on solutions to enable data integration. The resulting solution between the two vendors’ offerings, as well as within the same system, is made up of both an EHR and a practice management solution.
Those in the world of healthcare are moving headlong into these exchanges. Most have no clue as to what must change within internal IT to get ahead of the need for the free flow of information. Moreover, there needs to be a good data governance strategy in place, as well as security, and a focus on compliance issues as well.
The reality is that, for the most part, data integration in the world of healthcare is largely ad-hoc, and tactical in nature. This has led to no standardized method for systems to talk one-to-another, and certainly no standard ways for data to flow out through exchanges. Think of plumbing that was built haphazardly and ad hoc over the years, with whatever was quick and easy. Now, you’ve finally turned on the water and there are many, many leaks.
In terms of data integration, healthcare has been underfunded for far too long. Now clear regulatory changes require better information management and security approaches. Unfortunately, healthcare IT is way behind, in terms of leveraging proper data integration approaches, as well as leveraging the right data integration technology.
As things change in the world of healthcare, including the move to HIEs, I suspect that data integration will finally get a hard look from those who manage IT in healthcare organizations. However, they need to do this with some sound planning, which should include an understanding of what the future holds in terms of information management, and how to create a common infrastructure that supports most of the existing and future use cases. Healthcare, you’re about 10 years behind, so let’s get moving this year.