Katya Samardina

Real-Time Integration Really Matters: Five Reasons Why


Why wouldn’t a healthcare IT leader concern himself with real-time integration? One reason might be that since healthcare data analytics have long been performed against claims data, he might not even be aware of the opportunity real-time integration represents.

Another reason might be that since healthcare systems vary so widely from one vendor to another—the way EMRs often do—the IT leader would have to develop a fresh approach to integration for every unique system his EMR touches, which is exceedingly difficult without a robust health information exchange (HIE) system.

Yet another reason might be that the IT leader is satisfied with merely having integration that’s supported by a batch-oriented data warehouse, and he hasn’t been incentivized to investigate event-driven, real-time integration.

These are all mistakes no enterprise should tolerate. Here are five reasons why.

  1. You’re only as good as your data. If your data isn’t, itself, real-time in nature, it’s late. Period. Claims data doesn’t come the moment an event occurs—it comes 30-90 days later, which isn’t actionable. If your data is old, your capacity to utilize it is compromised, in the same way that if your ingredients are stale, your capacity to make a fresh meal is compromised. 
  2. You’re only as real-time as your weakest link. You have different data sources—diagnostic data, procedure data, lab results data, demographics data, etc. If any of those sources—any one of them—doesn’t support real-time integration, your entire system is as weak as that non-supportive source. For example, take lab data. Very up-to-date, right? But say you can’t identify a specific patient against the global enterprise master patient index (EMPI) because the EMPI doesn’t support real-time integration. It wouldn’t matter how up-to-date that lab data is, because who knows who that data’s for?
  3. The data should be organized for slicing and dicing. In other words, if the data is normalized and disparate when you perform some analytics, de-normalizing it will require complex calculations, which—if you’re dealing with millions of patients—will add up quickly. The task of slicing and dicing the data so that you can squeeze additional intelligence out of it will become incredibly difficult.
  4. You can’t stratify patients instantaneously without real-time integration. But with real-time integration, you can identify a time-sensitive issue like a 30-day readmission risk as you receive the data and make a decision—right then and there—about what to do with that high-risk patient.
  5. If the analytics aren’t performed in real-time, then they can’t be integrated into a clinician’s workflow. And that means the clinician can’t act upon them. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard complaints from clinicians about how often they have to log in and out of any number of different systems just to get the information they need. They just don’t have time for that.

The IT leader who understands these five reasons puts his organization in an infinitely better spot than the one he found it in. While he may have his initial reasons why he hasn’t concerned himself with real-time integration yet, any IT leader who fully internalizes the five reasons above should quickly recognize the advantage it can create for the enterprise. And if you’ve got an IT leader like that, take heart—you’ve got a partner who’s truly looking out for your business, one who recognizes the value of striving beyond “good enough” and toward a future where an essential feature like real-time integration isn’t a nice-to-have, but a must-have.

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