You know what we all want to see in the middle of a hot, sweltering desert hike? An oasis. I’m talking about a fresh-water, shady-breeze, giant-ice-shave of an oasis.
More often than not, though, oasis sightings turn out to be mirages.
It’s the same way with prebuilt, black box interoperability solutions that look like they’ll get your data flowing fast and easy: when you finally get to the point of go-live, these solutions only pan out every once in a great while.
By black box interoperability solution, I mean an API solution that calls for a specific set of data, and outputs a specific set of data—but that data transformation is not editable or transparent.
That’s not to say a prebuilt API connection can’t be just what your interoperability project needs. It’s just that they only work in very specific scenarios, and the rest of the time they’re about as useful as a handful of sand.
So, before you hinge the success of your entire project on what could potentially turn out to be a mirage, you’ll want to make sure you can see it clearly for what it is.
Through our work with customers (many of whom started by using a black box API and had to switch part way through to a solution that offers greater transparency and flexibility), we’ve compiled a list of questions you can use to flag scenarios in which you might want to pursue advice from an interoperability expert.
1. Are you targeting small-ish clinics or offices that don’t use major EHRs? If so, this can be a sign that you might need help getting the different data models to work together in your solution. Many prebuilt connections that operate as a black box only provide limited options for well-known medical record systems. As soon as you have a nuanced need for data or a want to interoperate with a lesser known EHR, you are operating out of scope.
2. Have you double checked to make sure the solution supports your data model? Again, prebuilt solutions only support limited data models. If you want to use your own data model without extending it, you might be out of luck. And if you’re not sure which interoperability solution is best for your model and your customer demands, we wholeheartedly recommend evaluating your options before accepting the default. Starting with a flexible model can save you a lot of heartache down the road.
3. Does your workflow involve more than moving data from point A to point B? Prebuilt integrations are great for simple tasks. However, if you want to: add logic and filters; map different data elements together; automate manual tasks; transform signals as you send them, or even just combine more than a handful of data sources, you probably need a more robust interoperability solution and someone with expertise to help you connect.
4. Is there a chance your solution is going to get big? Prebuilt integration connections often start off working just fine. Especially when it comes to integrating with the big name EHRs. But if you’re planning to grow (we hope so!) and integrate a lot of those big systems, make sure you know what you’re getting into. For example, if you can imagine a scenario in which you need to integrate 10 Epics, 15 Allscripts, and 20 Greenway applications down the road, you owe it to your future self to explore your options.
5. How confident are you handling the technical implementation? Companies that offer black box style healthcare connections provide copious documentation and guidance on how to build and optimize with their solutions. But it’s up to you to read the fine print and follow it. If you think you might need a little more help in terms of project management, implementation guidance, or even solution architecting, you’ll want to find a partner that’s there every step of the way.
At Rhapsody, we love the idea of a prebuilt healthcare integration solution, but we’re not going to risk the success of a project on a potential mirage. If you find you need help figuring out what’s real and what’s not, give us call and we can help you think through it.
Even if we can’t guarantee an oasis in your desert hike, we do promise to escort you all the way to finish line (on our version of a refrigerated beverage cart) to make sure you get where you’re going as fast and easily as possible.
Want to learn more? Give us a ring. Run the TCO numbers. Read our interoperability go-live guide.