Interoperability via a Single API is Possible

For Health IT companies, it’s so tempting to just dive in and build the point-to-point data integration that you need to get the job done. If you do that too many times, however, you’ll suddenly realize you have a mess of spaghetti on your hands that will hamper future development. The co-founders of Datica believe there is a better way – integration as a service – something that healthcare organizations and Health IT vendors could use right now as they rapidly build solutions to deal with COVID-19.

We all know that integrating healthcare systems isn’t easy. There are competing standards, siloed legacy systems, and insufficient IT resources. Plus, there is always the pressure to get things done quickly in order to roll out new technology to help clinical departments. That is especially true in a sustained emergency like COVID-19, where everything needs to be done yesterday and hacking something together just to make it work is acceptable.

But even in an emergency, there are ways to make system integration and data interoperability easier. Datica is a company that provides EHR integration & HIPAA compliant AWS infrastructure to healthcare developers – mostly at Health IT companies, but also directly to providers. With their solution, IT managers can rest easy, knowing that integration will not be a bottleneck or a labor-intensive hurdle.

In a nutshell, Datica offers integration as a service. They take care of everything so that developers can focus on building the best product possible. I had the opportunity to sit down with Datica’s Co-Founders: Jeremy Pierotti, CEO and Dave Levin MD, CMO (former CMIO of Cleveland Clinic), to talk about integration and data interoperability.

One thing that strikes you right away when speaking with Pierotti and Levin is that they exude a calmness and level-headedness when discussing interoperability. It is clear they have grappled with this challenge “in the trenches”.

Both Pierotti and Levin had a clear message for IT leaders at Health IT companies and healthcare providers: focus on the outcome you want THEN figure out all the other stuff. The other stuff being the data you need, where it resides and how to best extract/update it. This outcomes-based approach to data design is refreshing.

“One of the big lessons we learned [at the Cleveland Clinic] is that if it doesn’t get integrated, it doesn’t get used,” recalls Levin. “We had a crazy-smart clinician who came up with a dosing algorithm for heparin, a widely used and dangerous drug. The algorithm lived on its own separate web page. As a result it didn’t get used very much. When we integrated it and populated it with data that was already in the system, the utilization of that tool went up quite dramatically.”

Levin’s example illustrates how effective tools and applications can be when they are seamlessly integrated with existing data repositories, like EHRs, and with existing clinical workflows.

The easy exchange of data is something that is being mandated by the government, as evidenced by the recent changes announced in early March by the ONC.

“With respect to the final rule released by the ONC,” explains Pierotti. “Clearly the expectation of data exchange between Health IT applications has been put at a higher level. That’s good for all of us. It’s good for patients. It’s good for clinicians. If we are going to be the most efficient and effective at delivering high quality outcomes, then you have to have easy data exchange between applications.”

Pierotti goes on to say that as patients/consumers, we’ve come to expect seamless data interoperability in almost all other aspects of our lives. Our financial information, for example, can be seamlessly exchanged between banks, credit card companies and insurance carriers. Why should healthcare be any different?

Levin agrees and sees encouraging signs of progress: “It’s remarkable how much progress we’ve made in the past 5 years. When Jeremy and I started the company, we would get strange looks when we talked to people about using APIs as the technical basis for health data exchange. APIs weren’t new at the time, but they were new to healthcare. Now the government is mandating the use of APIs.”

Watch this discussion with Levin and Pierotti to learn:

  • How the explosion of telehealth is driving the need for more/better integration
  • How important data integration was to Jeremy’s wife when they ended up in the ER
  • How integrating with workflow is almost as important as integrating systems
  • Why Levin gives major props to the FHIR group

If you are a health IT company that is just starting to conceptualize your solution, now might be the best time to engage a company like Datica asserted Levin. They can help guide you away from the pitfalls and get you situated for long-term integration success. Of course, Datica will also work with companies in the throes of a integration project who need help to get the work done quickly and efficiently.

With Datica, they handle all the heavy lifting. “We provide the software and handle the connectivity as well as data transformation,” says Pierotti. “We provide an API for our customers to hit or they can define an API for us to hit. We take care of all the hand to hand combat that’s necessary in order to make that integration come to life. This means our customers don’t need to have a full integration team.”

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This article is part of the #HealthIT100in100

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About the author

Colin Hung

Colin Hung

Colin Hung is the co-founder of the #hcldr (healthcare leadership) tweetchat one of the most popular and active healthcare social media communities on Twitter. Colin speaks, tweets and blogs regularly about healthcare, technology, marketing and leadership. He is currently an independent marketing consultant working with leading healthIT companies. Colin is a member of #TheWalkingGallery. His Twitter handle is: @Colin_Hung.