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Adopting a Cloud-First Approach to Healthcare Data Integration

Health system mergers and acquisitions leave organizations with healthcare data integration challenges when adopting and adapting applications, according to John Reeves of Dell Boomi.

healthcare data integration

Source: Thinkstock

By Elizabeth O'Dowd

- As healthcare organizations look toward a future of seamless healthcare data integration, they are facing the difficult task of managing legacy systems and connecting disparate data siloes created by aging infrastructure.

Poor integration capabilities can make acquiring new digital tools a difficult undertaking, says John Reeves, Healthcare Solutions Evangelist at Dell Boomi, and fragmented systems can slow down the development of coordinated, proactive care.

“A modern healthcare IT strategy needs to be more in lock step with where the marketplace is going,” he said. “It has to be able to address issues such as patient engagement, the increasing importance of quality measures, and the need to generate insights from extremely large and complicated data sets.”

Integration also has a direct impact on a healthcare organization’s financial future, said Reeves.

“We're having a lot of conversations with large healthcare providers and systems that are undergoing mergers and acquisitions,” Reeves told HITInfrastructure.com. “The M&A environment is forcing interesting scenarios. Not only do existing systems have to compete for mind share within the organizations, but merging organizations need to decide what EHR they’re going to keep.”

READ MORE: Dangers of Legacy Solutions to Health IT Infrastructure Systems

Mergers and acquisitions are on the rise across the industry. In 2017, providers formed new partnerships at a record rate, completing 115 transactions in just 12 months.

“We still have thousands of hospitals, but numbers are showing that they will merge into a few hundred health systems by the time the smoke clears,” said Reeves. “That’s how fast the rate of mergers and acquisitions are happening. As a result, systems are becoming much more integrated.”

Technology must follow suit in order to enable coordinated care and allow access to insights from newly-combined big data assets. But large healthcare systems have hundreds of systems making up their IT infrastructure. Many of these systems are tied to the workflow of the hospital’s EHR.

“A hospital could bring along as many as 700 applications during an M&A.  It’s not as easy as a rip-and-replace conversation anymore,” observed Reeves.  “You have to be thinking about how you can overlay and connect to these systems while still managing everything that a regular company does: finances, payroll, human resources, and more.”

Cloud-based tools can simplify and streamline the process of integrating data from different segments of the organization, he suggested.

READ MORE: Selecting Healthcare App Development Tools for Integration

“An agile, cloud-based integration platform can connect previously siloed or closed systems and pull needles of data out of the proverbial haystack to create reports that they didn't know they needed until they got the business going.”

“An enterprise Integration Platform-as-a-Service (IPaaS) solution is an integration solution with the ability to integrate systems of record to create new systems of engagement,” Reeves explained. “IPaaS can have out-of-the-box connectors to the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications that are widely used operationally in enterprises today.”

Becoming cloud native is the next step for healthcare organizations that want to succeed in an increasingly broadening - and consumer-centered - healthcare environment.

“We're trying to keep people healthy, out of the ER and move them toward awareness, wellness and managing their own health by engaging them more outside the doctor’s office,” Reeves said.  “That requires organizations to choose integration platforms that free them from the constraints of the brick-and mortar.”

Cloud-first technologies and platform-based approaches to health data management are changing the conversation around how to work with patients and their data.

READ MORE: Data Integration Improves Houston Methodist Hospital Operations

“We're seeing cloud-first technologies and platforms coming into healthcare that are groundbreaking and disruptive,” Reeves said.

“When you look at Amazon, Google, Berkshire Hathaway, or JP Morgan, you think about some of the technologies that these large companies that are not EHRs are bringing to the table. These transformative technologies are challenging the traditional EHR vendors and the EHR vendors are struggling with their legacy architectures and their existing partner ecosystems that were built around that legacy footprint.”

Embracing this emerging sense of consumerism in healthcare can support more proactive population health management and patient engagement.  

Adding consumer-friendly technologies, like telehealth options, home monitoring devices, or other components of the Internet of Things, can keep patients connected with providers to better manage their health.

“Organizations thinking about moving to the cloud with a solution or service line need to adapt to a care plan that goes beyond the walls of the hospital,” Reeves advised.

“That plan is driven by medical devices and guided by virtual care. Patients are now able to be reimbursed more for leveraging virtual care by visiting their PCPs through a tablet with an app and a video camera. This use of virtual care for certain ailments are being reimbursed more and more.”

Architecting infrastructure that can support virtual care and data-heavy IoT applications will enable healthcare organizations to create the “social media experience” that consumers now expect, he continued.

“Patients are going to have visibility into their bill.  They're going to have transparency into what actually happened from a historical perspective,” he stated. “This information is available today with portals that are EHR specific, but as these platforms evolve, they're not going be driven by what the EHR vendors allow, they're going to be driven by what the marketplace is demanding.”

Keeping one step ahead of the market requires a cloud-first approach, he stressed.

“Adapt and go to the cloud by choosing the right vendor to move you there.  Make that step where you have your feet in both legacy and cloud, then gradually replace what needs to be replaced.”

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