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When healthcare system integration goes wrong and how to avoid it

When healthcare system integration goes wrong and how to avoid it

20 May 2015

Your hospital relies on many different technologies to keep its day-to-day operations running smoothly. And, in today’s converged world, they all need to talk to each other. When it comes to improving efficiency and streamlining communication, system integration is one of healthcare’s biggest opportunities and, at times, one of its biggest nightmares. But it doesn’t need to be.

When system integration goes wrong in a healthcare setting it is usually because the new technologies being integrated into an existing landscape are not fully understood and their powerful features not fully leveraged.
Integration challenges can stem from the original system specifications, which are often based on past projects and the technological landscape of a number of years ago. Or it may be that the new system’s capability is not fully utilised, while complex middleware solutions are constructed to deliver functionality that end users don’t necessarily engage with or even need.

So how to avoid it? Here are some guidelines to the right approach:

Start with a clean slate and define your goal
Begin with the end in mind and define your clinical and operational goals and list the benefits you want the system to deliver. Don’t rely on old documentation, what got written into specs 3, 4 or 5 years ago may no longer be relevant – technology has moved on in leaps and bounds. Do work with the clinical team to understand their workflows and operational requirements and to develop your ‘dream list’.

Develop an in-depth understanding of the solution you are buying
Once you have a shortlist, ensure you have a clear understanding of the native integration capabilities of each of the solutions you are considering – this may be a key point of difference between otherwise similar solutions. Also consider how these capabilities will fit in with other systems in your overall infrastructure. 

Find the right balance between your ‘dream list’ and the product’s capability
And adjust your implementation plan if you need to. Aim for native integration wherever possible, without the need to rely on middleware if you can avoid it. This will reduce your potential points of failure and increase communication efficiencies between the systems. If you do need to rely on middleware, prioritise this for critical applications only.

Ensure that you leverage your new system’s full capability
Your original specs have defined the solution, but you may find that the system you ultimately select can do much more. If it makes sense to – and it probably will! – ensure that you leverage the full capability of the system you have selected. But remember, your clinical team should be engaged at every step of the process.

Don’t forget the actual users
Every role in a hospital is focused on providing or supporting quality patient care and the clinical team are your most important stakeholders. But don’t dismiss the importance of effectively engaging other system users such as the housekeeping staff, porters, the maintenance team, and the patient administration teams. They too need to be involved early in the process to ensure that the technology workflows work the way that they do.

When in doubt – refer back to your original goal
When considering the introduction of additional features or system connections, ensure that they support your original clinical and operational goals. If the hospital’s needs have evolved and you need to move away from the original specifications, ensure that you work closely with your internal clinical stakeholders to develop a new vision and roadmap.

Are you experiencing a healthcare system integration challenge? Seamless integration of various healthcare technologies is at the heart of every project we manage. Get in touch to see how we can help.