Katya Samardina

How To Choose A New Integration Engine

July 11, 2016


As the manager of an integration team, what is there to consider when choosing a new integration engine?

In my previous role, I was the manager of an integration team that managed the interoperability requirements for a large group of hospitals. During that time, the organization was involved in the process of choosing a new integration engine, as the legacy engine the organization was using was due for sunset. 

The hospital organization needed a migration strategy to plan, procure, prepare, implement, and configure a new integration engine. The requirement for the integration platform was to ensure rapid interoperability between the organization’s IT systems.

Hospitals and healthcare organizations use integration engines to provide comprehensive support for an extensive range of communication protocols and message formats. They help interface analysts and hospital IT administrators reduce their workloads, while meeting the complex technical challenges associated with making healthcare data accessible to all stakeholders.

Integration engines must evolve with the fast-moving pace of technology. Scalable and robust platforms need to integrate with legacy—as well as next-generation—healthcare solutions. So, part of the selection process for the new integration engine was to ensure the requirements of the system were effective for both now and the future. The engine required scaling capabilities for managing patient data effectively over time.

There were—and are—three key questions to consider.

Installation experience. Some integration engines are technically complicated to install, and the installation is a lengthy process—requiring downtime that interrupts the flow of clinical data. I would look for something that is quick and easy to install, and does not require an expensive technical resource. Installation with a software setup wizard—and a standard installation that doesn’t require any complex prerequisites—is a time-saving feature.

Development/configuration experience. How easy is it to develop a new interface, like sending an ADT message from a patient administration system to a new specialty system (e.g., an application used by the cardiology team)? Does this require a software developer to write complicated code? What is the time involved, from understanding the requirements for the interface to delivering the first working version of it? Look for an engine that combines the ease-of-use of drag-and-drop functionality with the flexibility of a JavaScript filter for writing custom code. Can a standard ADT interface be developed in a short amount of time by someone relatively new to the engine, with no complicated code required?

Learning curve. How steep is the learning curve for all the people involved in using an integration engine, like the developers who develop the interface or the integration support/administration team who installs or upgrades the engine, deploys new interfaces into production, and monitors the engine? Look for an engine where users can achieve a basic proficiency quickly in development/configuration and deployment of interfaces.

An integration engine that is scalable, powerful, and easy-to-use—one that can adapt as new technologies and standards like HL7 FHIR emerge, and evolves with the needs of patients, care providers, and healthcare organizations—is crucial. Are you ready to make this important decision?

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