As digital transformation is dawning, with all the new cost efficiencies that it brings, healthcare organizations can’t let siloed systems be the bottleneck for innovation.
By making health information available electronically when and where it is needed, health IT can provide higher quality healthcare that is also more cost effective.
Therefore, it’s not surprising that the global application integration and middleware (AIM) software market continues to grow faster than the overall infrastructure software market, with revenue expected to surpass $27 billion in 2017, an increase of 7 percent from 2016, according to Gartner.
However when IT departments in healthcare organizations decide to move ahead with integrating their systems, many managers look to point-to-point (P2P) integrations. This may save money in the short run, but when additional systems are added, they can end up with higher costs and a system architecture that is a nightmare to manage.
Save a Penny, Lose a Dollar
Many organizations have in-house staff who are experienced and readily available, making P2P integrations simple, and enabling them to keep costs low at the project level. Since this is how IT historically evaluates success, P2P is still the most common approach today.
However, each new low-cost P2P connection adds to the total lifetime cost of the IT infrastructure. With each new module or system that needs to be added, developers are faced with a learning curve of understanding, modifying and then testing each new connection. The result is a spider web of connections that takes longer to adapt to each new requirement, slowing down development times, and forcing IT departments to focus more on integration and less on creating applications that support their business users.
In today’s increasingly sophisticated healthcare landscape, many organizations are faced with the question of how to connect their Electronic Health Record (EHR) to other systems, including labs, imaging vendors, referral clinics and Health Information Exchanges. At the same time, legislative, market and technology pressures make it imperative for healthcare organizations to become more agile, with the ability to easily update and modify information systems.
Moreover, application developers, line of business (LOB) IT services and business users are increasingly involved with integration work. Gartner calls this new situation “pervasive integration.” This means that more people need access to tools to help empower the process of integrating data.
Middleware for Healthcare Interoperability
Healthcare organizations are faced with the challenges of restructuring for cost reductions and improving the patient experience by leveraging innovations in cloud infrastructure and big data. In addition, today’s focus on performance improvement requires the ability to merge and analyze data from clinical, financial and patient satisfaction systems.
Middleware provides the necessary technology by connecting disparate software into a single, easy-to-use interface including legacy and emerging technologies that were developed using different methods and architectures. The result is a more flexible environment that provides the ability to carry out the necessary analysis in order to continuously improve healthcare performance.
Other crucial components to middle integration platforms include elasticity, resilience, fault-tolerance, as well as monitoring and performance management capabilities. If a system fails during transmission, the integration tool can resend the message. Monitoring capabilities provide systems with the ability to automatically cache transmissions that cannot be sent. Extra resources are automatically available to handle sudden peaks in demand.
Point-to-point integration can become an obstacle to innovation by complicating information flows across systems that are needed to meet current healthcare challenges. Middleware can put a flexible infrastructure in place that produces the best ROI over time. Doing system integration for the long run makes IT an enabler, not an obstacle for improved health and healthcare services.
By Javier Jiménez President at Magic Software Enterprises Inc., a leading provider of Enterprise Application and Integration Software Solutions for over 30 years.