One Platform to Connect to All EHR Software

I’ve talked for years with people who want to solve the problem of connecting their non-EHR software to all the EHR vendors out there. Entrepreneur after entrepeneur has asked me how they can connect their product to ALL the EHR vendors. It usually ends up being a question like, “Isn’t there just one company we could connect to that will connect us to all the EHR vendors out there?”

I’ve dreamed about this as well. In fact, I recently wrote a post on Hospital EMR and EHR titled “Meaningful Use Drove the Data Gathering” where I suggest things like “EHR data is a treasure trove of opportunity.” and “In the future, EHR vendors will be differentiated more on the marketplace of third party applications they support than on their own in house developed apps.”

The problem is that even if every EHR vendor were to open up their application to third party applications, a startup company doesn’t want to have to integrate with all 300+ EHR vendors out there. Instead, they’d much rather integrate with one company who can connect them to all the other EHR vendors.

While a simple solution to connect to every EHR isn’t available yet, In a recent chat with Thanh Tran, Founder of Zoeticx, he showed me the closest thing to this vision that I’ve seen.

This slide shows what Zoeticx has built so far and a little bit of their vision for the future. When I saw this slide, it looked very much like what I described above.
Zoeticx Data Platform

As the slide shows, it only connects to 4 EHR vendors (5 EHR software) right now. So, they still have a lot of work to do to make this model work across all 300+ EHR vendors. However, it displays a vision of what’s possible if a company like Zoeticx builds the right middleware to connect EHR software to third party software.

After talking with Thanh Tran, you could tell that he lived, breathed, and loved the middleware space. He understood what it took to build a great middleware. For example, Zoeticx has a number of applications that leverage the middleware that they’re building. Some might argue that this makes Zoeticx a product company and not a middleware company. However, those that say this don’t understand what it takes to make great middleware.

By Zoeticx having some applications which leverage their middleware, they accomplish a couple very important things. First, they are essentially “eating their own dog food” and get to see first hand the challenges of building an application that uses their middleware. This will improve the middleware product better than any other technique. Second, Zoeticx applications will serve as essentially a set of demo applications which can be used to demonstrate what’s possible. Without these essentially demo applications, it’s often hard for people to understand how an API like Zoeticx can be used.

Certainly it’s possible that the Zoeticx application business is so good that they don’t go after the middleware opportunity. However, knowing Thanh’s background makes me think that this is an unlikely possibility. He wants Zoeticx to be a middleware company.

Thanh Tran also said something really intriguing about the latest EHR that they connected to their universal patient clinical data model (Zoeticx Patient Clarity). He said that when they added the new EHR, they didn’t have to change the Zoeticx Patient Clarity side of the equation at all. I’ll be interested to see how this plays out as they connect to more and more EHR vendors.

In fact, I believe that’s the next key step for Zoeticx. They need to connect with the other EHR vendors. Although, my guess is that once they get enough momentum behind what they’re doing, then they can provide an API for EHR vendors and other software vendors to create a gateway to Zoeticx. Then, they’ll have something really powerful.

It’s still early for Zoeticx. We’ll see how they do at attracting third party applications to their platform. We’ll see how their gateways to EHR vendors go and how they’re able to scale up the number of EHR vendors they work with. However, their vision gave me some hope that we could have a simple model for entrepreneurs that want to connect their health IT software with multiple EHR software with one integration.

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference, EXPO.health, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.

11 Comments

  • Your Blog is really informative. I also read your mention post in blog & it’s really increase my knowledge. I hope it will become true in near future to connect to every EHR.

  • Very interesting. For old computer farts like myself, an interesting analogy is the evolution of the modern computer character set.

    Forty years ago, various computer makers spawned many different architectures, with instructions usually multiples of 6 or 8 bits. Characters and control signals were dependent on the machine, and users often had to go through intricate gyrations to convert data from one machine to another.

    Then the ANSI committee’s ASCII character set and the 8-bit byte standardized this mish-mash, an in just a few years nearly everyone (except IBM mainframes) accepted this and revised their architectures to match. Later, Unicode came along and, using ASCII as a base, expanded the definition to include European, Chinese, Hebrew, Arabic — virtually all the world’s languages.

    Zoeticx’s middleware is reminiscent of those conversion efforts of yesteryear. Sooner or later, the various EMR vendors will tweak their software to simplify accommodation to Zoeticx’s or some other middleware interface. Then ultimately the middleware will become no longer needed, as all the vendors’ standards will have merged.

  • I think the Zoeticx vision is a great one but like so many other great visions launched by private companies, the “great idea” has high odds of going away and pulling the rug out from under the buyers once management whim occurs to sell to the highest bidder. the field is littered with companies with great visions and ideas that major hospitals and providers bought into and then lost later. Look at GE and Allscripts decision to drop popular provider software, Mitochon dropping it’s free software, and now, CCHIT leaving tons of customers, including vendors, to just go “figure it out”. We need the NwHIN back and maybe that will happen now when the smoke clears and Healtheway realizes the bag they were left holding.

  • KISS – HIT seems to have completely abandoned the necessity of simplicity. Example: The Medical Malpractice Insurance industry is in a dire crisis. Since Physicians are on their 3rd EHR and didn’t pay Thousands of dollars to convert the old data to the new EHR, the lawyers have no effective defense because the critical documents they need were sold/scrapped/destroyed or are held hostage by legacy EHR vendors. The real solution is to render ALL content in flat human readable files like .Doc, .XML, .EXE, .PDF, etc… and keep all of the discrete data in .XML in Patient/Encounter scoped “folders”. Then even the minimally technically competent user can copy the entire patient folder to a JUMP drive and you’ve got everything related to that patient in a format everyone can deal with now and well into the future. Then you can use any RDB you want to ingest the .XML slice/dice/report/analyze the data on the back-end.

  • John,

    You should also check out http://www.inofile.com. They have something very similar to the company you reference above and I think their community of partners and developers is further along. They are also tied in with organizations like Direct Trust, etc.

    Thanks.

  • Lou,
    It’s possible that will happen. There’s always a risk, but considering the background of the founder I like this company’s possibilities better than others I’ve seen.

    Dan,
    I’ve seen Inofile before. I think it was a few years back at HIMSS at the Fujitsu booth. Interesting approach. I think one major difference is that it’s all document based. There’s certainly value in what they’re doing and if they can connect the end points, that would be a huge step forward. I think a direct two way API like Zoeticx is doing is more powerful and a bit different.

  • John,

    You should take another look at Inofile. I won’t steal their thunder but they are debuting something at HiMSS this year that will change how you think about them. I have a good relationship with new CEO if you’d like me to connect.

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