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Have You Outgrown Your HL7 Interface Engine?

Don’t love it, but too committed to leave it? Don’t despair.

Healthcare providers continue to adopt new technologies, in the form of both in-house systems, equipment, and devices and external cloud based software solutions. These new solutions and systems are often far more easily integrated than those of five or even two years ago. What’s changed? Meaningful use incentives, the rise of mobile health and the paradigm shift towards software “as a service” have all required these solutions to be more open and easily connected than before.

Unfortunately, hospital and solution providers must also live with the legacy of their existing technology landscape which usually includes older systems. These established systems may be largely closed and proprietary, or may only offer rigid HL7 2.x interfaces. You find low level protocol devices and systems that generate proprietary formats or legacy EHR systems that cannot communicate with one another and you find passé interface engines, too. And let’s not forget, that the cost to the US healthcare systems is staggering.

Recently in a U.S. Congress session, the West Health Institute (WHI) testified and released estimates stating that system and device interoperability could save the US over $30 billion a year – never mind the improvements in care and safety, which are not so easily quantified.

 

Interface engine to interface engine connectivity: The path to a modern integration architecture

Many old interface engines are battle-tested and reliable, but were not built with the future in mind. The technology on which they have been built has long been surpassed, with better and newer ways to do things. Surprisingly some of these early, difficult to scale up interface engines make up a large percentage of the interface engines in use today.

So what’s holding back users from a move to modern newer and better interface engines?

First, an investment has been made in building interfaces with these engines. There may be 1000s of interfaces in production within an organization. Rebuilding these interfaces is simply not an option. Next, you encounter reluctance to change – people are in their comfort zone with the status quo. Finally, and surprisingly, there is the misconception that you can’t have both – keep the old while embracing the new.

 

You can have it all. The union of modern and legacy interface engines!

Yes, you can achieve the union of the old and new. Interface engines are, after all, middleware. Middleware solves the problem of lack of interoperability by mediating the differences between data formats and communication protocols. Older engines do an adequate job of exposing the data, but where they are often limited is with data formatting and connectivity. This is especially problematic when trying to comply with newer standards like HL7 3.x, CDA, and FHIR or connectivity protocols like Web Services, JSON, HTTP, and REST-ful.

Older interface engines have not been architected to support these newer standards and protocols. By utilizing modern interface engines one can breathe new life into older engines and take advantage of new standards and new protocols. There’s no need to unplug the trusted HL7 interface engine chugging away in the corner. Use it for what it was meant to do – as middleware for the old HL7 interfaces, and also to expose the data for the new.

Middleware allows older systems to communicate with the HL7 interface engine as they always have. You can use middleware as the gateway to communicate with a more flexible, future-friendly integration solution like the PilotFish eiPlatform and eiConsole for Healthcare.

Middleware offers healthcare providers the ability to leverage their past investment in their chosen HL7 2.x interface engine, without limiting their ability to adopt and fully integrate new technologies that can dramatically move the needle in improving patient care. So if you don’t love your older interface engine but are too invested to leave it – modern interface engine to interface engine connectivity is the answer. No reason to wait!

If you’re interested in investigating how PilotFish can help modernize your integration architecture give us a call at 860-632.9900 x309.

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Monika Vainius

Written by: Monika Vainius

Executive Vice President of Applied PilotFish Healthcare Integration. Monika has extensive experience with systems interoperability. She combines this experience with her professional passion for healthcare and healthcare technology to comment on current healthcare and IT news. Website

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