Readying for Interoperability Step 1

Readying for Interoperability Step 1

Finding Conversion Opportunities to API

In my blog post “4 Steps to Evaluating Your Interoperability Readiness” I’ve set up a list of steps that hospitals, vendors and other healthcare organizations can follow to migrate legacy systems using HL7 v. 2 to new standards for data exchange that can reduce costs and lower staffing needs while providing a faster response.

The Need for Identifying Conversion Opportunities

In step 1, I stated that organizations need to prepare for new FHIR standards by looking for existing conversion opportunities. Those that are not intimately involved with information technology inside a hospital may think that hospitals are running on a single system, called an EHR (Electronic Health Record). In reality, hospitals have historically utilized a collection of systems and relied on them to integrate with one another to form a network, collectively referred to as EHR. While not mandated, updating to new FHIR standards proves beneficial to organizations for many reasons.

Many hospitals utilize multiple software systems to achieve various communication tasks at all levels of the organization. It’s not hard to imagine some of the issues with standardization this varied approach can have, and those issues are a key driver of FHIR. To achieve harmonious interoperability between devices and platforms in the age of the platform, it is necessary to effectively prepare for the conversion from message-based systems to updated API standards.

The need for increased interoperability has grown from regulation surrounding Advancing Care Information (formerly known as Meaningful Use) . As laws were passed that pushed for greater EHR operability, most organizations built-out connectivity using one-way HL7 standards that were available at that time. Now, with the availability of FHIR, data can be reliably extracted from any EHR system, allowing for the development of high quality applications.

HL7’s FHIR combines the best features of HL7’s v2, HL7v3 and CDA product lines while leveraging the latest Web standards to create a better standard for communication between systems. As organizations start to upgrade their systems, administrators are asking IT departments to look at conversion opportunities within their system.

Start with Your Systems’ Vendors

A major factor in identifying conversion opportunities is evaluating if your systems’ vendors are FHIR ready. The marketspace has some early adopters, but the major EHRs are still not fully on board with the technology. In the meantime, systems continue to co-exist as the industry updates to FHIR.

It’s in your best interest to learn what your vendors plan on doing to address FHIR standards, how long they will provide support on legacy systems (if in use), and get a feel for where they are moving in general. A proactive approach is best considering that the industry is undoubtedly moving to updated standards.

How Does Your System Measure Up?

After evaluating your systems’ vendors, it would be useful to inventory the current state of your systems to learn if you can benefit from API functionality. For example, if your current system is running with HL7 V3, its XML-based format allows for a much smoother conversion toward API-ready FHIR, than if your system was running on an older legacy framework such as the character-delimited HL7 V2.

Security is the Backbone of API Integration

A final and top consideration is security when streamlining PHI data transmission through the healthcare ecosystem. It is beneficial to consider and evaluate your vendors’ plans of action when determining your course of API integration. Many systems are leveraging HL7’s FHIR framework standards for secure data transmission, while others are shifting to a proprietary API with unique coding standardizations.

The future of API integration is exciting, and its growing implementation opens the way for innovation. Extensive preparation and the navigation of conversion opportunities is crucial for successful interoperability using APIs

Seth Hobgood is CTO at Interoptex.

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Is the Build vs. Buy Argument Still Relevant?

Is the Build vs. Buy Argument Still Relevant?

What integration and security tasks should you take on yourself? Which ones should you outsource to a trusted partner? And what’s becoming the standard solution to integrative data practices?

Managing the integration of your healthcare systems can be both a complex and concerning pivot in your business plan. Big Data is a keyword that resonates with members across all industries, but especially within the healthcare industry, which is rich with big data. Through data integration, the seemingly overwhelming amounts of information provide leverage points for the healthcare industry. Data integration is financially beneficial and it allows more room for patient care.

But what’s the most efficient way to achieve data integration? Is it best to create or tap into your in-house development team, or is it more sustainable to outsource the majority of IT and development? Larger companies have the tendency to build everything internally, believing it would be damaging to outsource everything. And while some experts recommend a hybrid approach, is that really the best solution for the majority of healthcare systems or hospitals grappling with integration?

Let’s examine some of the pros and cons to leaving the responsibility of data integration to an in-house development team versus relying on an outsourced iPaaS company.

The Benefits of an In-House Development Team

Availability

A team of in-house employees is always available, which is paramount when emergency situations arise. Full-time employees are on a salary so the expense remains the same no matter what the demand is. Plus, an in-house team of developers may be more likely to recognize problems earlier than an outsourced team.

Culture

When a company invests time and money into finding and keeping the right people, a healthy work environment emerges. The employees now have a personal investment in their work and are willing to go the extra mile. In certain situations, like an emergency, going above and beyond is required.

Customization

Employing an in-house team allows room to mold and train each employee to specific company needs. This investment of time into another individual permits the potentiality of long-term commitments.

The Benefits of Outsourcing

Specialization & Expertise

An outsourced company tends to be highly specialized in what service is needed, whereas a full-time employee may hold a more general knowledge of IT/ development. An external view can increase productivity through solving issues that will no longer impede your core team from evolving your core product.

An outsourced iPaaS company will likely be on the cutting edge of technology advancements, training that is incurred at their own expense. Companies with in-house teams will have to pay to train and keep IT personnel up to date, especially on security issues currently plaguing hospitals and big-data holders.

Flexibility

Outsourcing can offer more flexibility than an in-house employee due to the contractual nature of third-party agreements. Plus, an external view may reveal problems that might not have otherwise been seen, saving clients money by offering a quicker solution.

Demand

It is easier to find freelancers than developers. It is hard to hold on to full-time employees in this lucrative industry. The effort and time spent trying to create long-term opportunities for employees can take away the efforts needed from accurate business intelligence which in turn slows development. The demand for IT professionals far exceeds supply.

How can you decide?

It is up to a company to decide whether having an in-house team of professionals or hiring an outsourced team of professionals is best for their needs. There is no one-size-fits-all guideline to building vs. buying. However, it’s worth considering some of the quick-paced needs facing the healthcare industry today, including security, data management, and a shortage of qualified employees.

The integration of data in healthcare remains a critical challenge for the industry and healthcare IT technology is a rapidly evolving sector. The shortage of healthcare IT professionals leads to higher outsourcing demands, and outsourcing has a hand to play in mitigating rising healthcare costs and meeting the growing demand for quality care. While a vendor’s or provider’s instinct may be to build, the cost incurred and the lag in cutting-edge technology may do more harm to a healthcare system than good.

Impactful data analysis can be achieved through outsourcing on-demand resources when more experience is needed and also through hiring a core of in-house employees. Strategically analyzing your team’s strengths and weaknesses, and supplementing those weaknesses through outsourced technology, is a commonly used approach.

Bottom Line

Outsourcing and cloud-based technology is rivaling in-house IT teams in its ability to provide better data integration and management, freeing up IT teams to focus on other issues. Read more on the Interoptex approach to data integration here.

Seth Hobgood is CTO at Interoptex.

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Data Visibility: The Next Step

Data Visibility: The Next Step

Now is the Time for Integration Portals

What are you doing to mitigate the risks that employees pose to data security? A recent survey found network users are the biggest threat to healthcare organization security, but shockingly 68% of organizations lack visibility into this problem.

As we’ve said before, interoperability is the future of healthcare systems. Though complexities surrounding healthcare systems management and integration are numerous, the solution may be simpler than you think. The answer is found in integration portals that maximize the investment made by an organization into cloud-based software and create efficiency and accessibility with minimal lag time and maximum visibility.

Read on to find out why an immediate and proactive approach to data visibility via integration portals is the vital next step for our industry.

Leverage the Visibility that Integration Brings

The 21st Century Cures Act, signed less than a year ago, contains provisions for improved integration. Connecting organizations with the data they collect through Electronic Health Records (EHR) is a significant objective of the Cures Act perhaps because integration offers so much in return.

For example, insightful and interconnected data allows an organization invaluable visibility into user behavior. Full visibility into how users connect to the cloud can tell IT teams the potential strengths and weaknesses of their network. One great byproduct of this data footprint is that it can signal a need for an organization to launch employee awareness programs on data security and best practices.

Still not convinced? This level of network visibility is an inherent value of integration portals. It simply has to be utilized. Healthcare organizations would be remiss in not leveraging this built-in feature to their advantage as cybersecurity becomes a mainstream concern.

How Does Visibility Improve Cybersecurity – Exactly?

Integration portals work by creating a single point of visibility into data, which in turn makes it easier for IT departments to track user pathways and identify breaches. This visibility allows organizations to follow best practices as they relate to segmentation, compliance and cyber security. Monitoring can be done continually and automatically through iPaaS systems like Interoptex. These automatic compliance initiatives, put in place through an integration portal, free up an organization to reallocate the resources of internal IT departments.

Data Security is a Growing Problem

The massive amounts of valuable patient information flooding into a network makes healthcare organizations a lucrative target for cyber criminals. The assurance of continual data streams ensures that endpoint security will remain a growing issue for organizations. That’s why it is vital to be proactive and mindful over endpoint security, rather than reactive after a debilitating breach occurs.

IT departments, healthcare executives, and administrators alike should view integration portals as a resource for controlling and tracking this continual flood of data and the security needs surrounding it. Implementing interoperability now suggests a progressive approach to data management and better secures the future of your organization’s information lifeline.

Proactive Protection for Your Organization

Concerns over cybersecurity are at an all-time high after recent increases in high-profile cyber-attacks. Between November 2015 and August 2016 alone, HHS’s Office for Civil Rights “obtained more than $16 million in settlements from just five entities related to electronic patient data breaches.” Payers, providers and others who handle PHI need to take a much more proactive and comprehensive approach to protecting their information assets in 2017 and beyond.

Next Steps

The time has come for healthcare organizations to take the next step in leveraging unprecedented visibility over their healthcare data, integrations and end point security. The Interoptex iPaaS portal provides insight into your healthcare system integration data footprint through a clean, easy-to-understand user interface, so you can interpret your integration data without leveraging development resources.

 

Seth Hobgood is CTO at Interoptex.

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Interoptex Welcomes Technical Account Manager David Lewis

Interoptex Welcomes Technical Account Manager David Lewis

Navy veteran looking to make healthcare interoperability projects shipshape

Aug. 30, 2017, NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Interoptex announced today an addition to the growing company’s team of healthcare technology professionals. David Lewis has joined the healthcare interoperability and HIPAA-compliant hosting provider as the Technical Account Manager.

Lewis, Navy veteran and Athens, Ala.-native, is the third hire in recent months for the rapidly growing Interoptex. In the newly-created role he will manage the company’s integration and development projects and ensure client success.

“The healthcare industry has really embraced the fast, low-cost approach of our integration Platform as a Service for their interoperability needs,” said Seth Hobgood, chief technology officer for Interoptex. “We don’t want to miss a beat during this growth period. David is solutions-focused and will allow us to continue to provide our clients the quality workmanship and precision we pride ourselves on.”

Lewis is a graduate of Athens State University and spent 6 years active duty with the US Navy stationed aboard the USS Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier, where he was a Personnel Specialist and Education Service Office Petty Officer forwardly deployed supporting combat missions. Though a high-tech healthcare startup and the Navy don’t appear to have much in common on the surface, Lewis sees one important similarity.

“Relationships in every industry benefit from transparent, genuine communication and clear expectations. The Interoptex team has been doing a fantastic job developing and managing quality healthcare data integrations,” said Lewis. “I am excited to contribute to the company’s growth and create consistently successful experiences for our clients.”

In addition to his technical account manager duties, Lewis will also assist with policies and project management of the HITRUST certification processes.

About Interoptex

Healthcare Interoperability is made easy with the team at Interoptex. Interoptex is a results-driven IT services company focused on healthcare providers and growing healthcare IT companies. Our HIPAA compliant hosting environment was developed using a set of security controls constructed from the input of healthcare’s foremost InfoSec leaders. Our cloud-based integration solution solves the headaches of integration by working with every healthcare data format and connecting to ambulatory, clinical, billing, and other systems, while providing aggressive alerting to Interoptex representatives when glitches arise.  Visit us at www.interoptex.com or call (844) 418-5577.

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