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Integration platform in healthcare: nice to have or a necessity?

Rutger Smit
Business Consultant
Rutger Smit is Harmony's go-to consultant for the Dutch healthcare sector. Based on our motto “caring is sharing”, he set up the CareConnect project. CareConnect makes it possible for healthcare providers to make information from all source systems available via APIs at an accelerated pace. On this platform, you can build your own API ecosystem based on small reusable components that can be used to fulfill both the legal obligations in accordance with the Wegiz and the internal information questions.
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Healthcare organizations are currently facing a wide range of new themes, topics and challenges related to data sharing and interoperability, and this will continue to evolve in the near future. The use of iPaaS (Integration-Platform-as-a-Service) provides organizations with the tools and guidelines to take control and control over its implementation and implementation themselves, bringing data ownership back into line with responsibility for that data.

However, it is not possible to ask the question “nice to have or necessity?” can be answered for all organizations. The answer depends on various factors, such as the sector and size of the organization, the application landscape and the maturity of the ICT organization.

Nevertheless, we will provide you with all the necessary information in the near future to make the decision yourself. We will do this within the framework of developments in the Dutch Healthcare (ICT) landscape, to ensure that the actual relevance and interfaces for you as a healthcare organization are clear.

Topics that will be covered

  • The iPaaS and the existing healthcare communication and integration landscape: differences, similarities, role and position.
  • What developments can iPaaS play a role in?
  • API gateway vs. API Management
  • API LED: What is it and why is it relevant?
  • Harmony, MuleSoft, and CareConnect

And finally:

  • The costs before the benefits: The business case for iPaaS

But why should you, as an organization, even look at using an iPaaS? That is the question that we are going to answer for you today

What exactly is an iPaaS?

An iPaaS, or Integration Platform as a Service, is a suite of cloud-based integration solutions that connects systems, both in the cloud and on-premises, within and between organizations. iPaaS is a hybrid platform that enables effective data integration, workflow synchronization, application integration, API management, and the development of integration solutions. Simplicity, reusability and accessibility are key here.

In terms of evolution, iPaaS represents the next step in the suite of integration solutions, which builds on ETL (Extract, Transform, Load) and Enterprise Application Integration/Enterprise Service Bus (EAI/ESB).

Some current themes and topics in which iPaaS plays a role include:

  • HL7 FHIR (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources),
  • data availability,
  • Wegiz (Electronic Data Exchange in Healthcare Act),
  • interoperability,
  • API strategy,
  • EHDS (Electronic Health Data Sharing),
  • CumuLuz care platform,
  • Data platforms and SaaS (Software as a Service).

But things are going well this way, right, without iPaaS?

In a subsequent blog, we will delve deeper into the differences and similarities of the iPaaS with previous and existing integration solutions and the position of the iPaaS in the current healthcare communication landscape.

But first, let's pay attention to the question “why should I, as an organization, even look at using an iPaaS?”

After all: “Things are going well this way, right?”

It is important to answer this question seriously because the integration landscape has undergone significant changes in recent years, which are only expected to increase. These changes are taking place at the application and infrastructure levels as well as at the strategic level.

At the level of applications and infrastructure, we are seeing a shift from on-premise to the cloud/SaaS, as well as a growing adoption and standardization of APIs as interfaces. Although this transition has been underway for some time with non-health systems, more and more healthcare systems will follow this trend, especially with the introduction of HL7 FHIR as a standard for data exchange between healthcare systems, and the Wegiz further stimulating this development.

At a strategic level, we are seeing a change in the way we think about integration approaches. There is a shift from specific exchange to general availability, also known as data availability. Tim Postema from Nictiz came here last year a striking piece written about it, using Lego bricks and puzzle pieces, he describes the essence of data availability: information must not only be available, but also accessible and usable. This requires standardization of the puzzle pieces, regardless of the specific context, so that they can be used flexibly for any situation, i.e. reusability. This is supported by the implementation of generic APIs as sockets.

In order to maintain control and control over further integration changes as a healthcare organization, an integration solution that uses the same principles and techniques as a starting point offers a solution: the iPaaS.

What if we don't use iPaaS?

In the near future, we will provide you with all the information about how exactly iPaaS can help you with these challenges. This will undoubtedly show that there is overlap with existing options that you already have at your disposal.

That's why we also use this approach: What are the possible obstacles if we don't use iPaaS?

First of all, let us emphasize that this can be fine and is often also the current practice. New system integrations based on API links are usually entrusted to the system suppliers involved as responsibility. This generally works well, but as the number of integrations increases, a number of disadvantages will eventually weigh in:

  • Limited to no personal control over these information flows
  • Extra costs; managing these flows often also involves costs.
  • High dependence on the system suppliers involved
  • Rigid; small changes can have major consequences
  • Inefficient; a lot of work has to be done twice, costing both time and money.
  • No possibility of personal data availability.

By the latter, we mean the ability to independently and system-independent compile information (the puzzle pieces) based on standardized puzzle pieces from the underlying source systems.

And this last point, in our opinion, is what makes the difference between “nice to have” and an absolute necessity.

With the introduction of Wegiz, EHDS and data availability as a strategy, we aim for the desired availability of those puzzle pieces as standardized building blocks. But without the support of an iPaaS to solve those puzzles as an organization itself, this will be solved with the use of various system supplier gateways, aggregators, brokers, translation machines and black box “platforms”, ending up with specific exchange instead of generic availability.

So, ask your organization too: Is an Integration Platform-as-a-Service (iPaaS) something we “like to have”, or is it an absolute necessity?

Harmony IT is an ICT service provider with a focus on healthcare. We support organizations in implementing and adopting the MuleSoft Anypoint Platform. In healthcare, we do this for RadbouduMC, Cordaan, Zorgcirkel and Omring, among others. CareConnect is our service focused on healthcare in which we develop specifically focused on the Dutch healthcare market, such as MITZ, Zibs, Cumuluz, etc., and with which we focus on bringing the Dutch MuleSoft healthcare community together. If you are interested in more information or want to talk to us, please contact us.

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