EHR integrations allow you to get healthcare data out of one system and into another, without having to retype or re enter the data. Data integration can include downloading data and uploading or ingesting data into the system. It could also mean a more real-time integration of data where the data moves from one system to another seamlessly.
There are several mechanisms in which data can be integrated. In the healthcare industry interoperability is the gold standard. Interoperability is an advanced form of integration and provides a more seamless way of data sharing.
Improve efficiency and reduce double data entry with tightly integrated healthcare data.
Ensure your clients get the best care when your providers have up-to-date information.
Streamline communication with labs, pharmacies, and other organizations in your community.
Healthcare data can be transferred in a number of ways. In the human services field, there are four primary methods: manual upload, web service, TCP/IP, and APIs.
The most common way is to take data and download it onto your computer. Then, upload it into the system you are trying to get the data into.
The second way you can have data moved over between systems is through a web service. This is where a specific code goes and looks for data in one system and then moves it into another system.
There are several protocol methods including file transfers and messaging.
APIs act as an intermediary between two systems so that they can communicate. APIs create an agreed upon structure on how data will be integrated so that systems can connect.
The EHR data integration method most appropriate for you will depend on the goals of the integration and the capabilities between the systems. Downloading and uploading data, especially, is the most time consuming way to do an integration. However, it is the most prevalent way and most modern data systems can either generate a Comma Separated Value (CSV) or Microsoft Excel (XLS/XMLS) file from the database and accept those files from the database. The web service method can provide a great way to integrate systems. However, it does require some technical expertise and may not be easy to adjust if the data needs change.
Specific to the healthcare industry is Health Level – 7 (HL7) integration which provides a structure in which data can be exchanged. HL7 is a standard health care TCP/IP method that can exchange information. It is somewhat limited in the data that can be exchanged. APIs provide a great way to transfer data. They can be built to be flexible in how the data is exchanged. Not all systems can connect via APIs, in addition in the healthcare industry there are privacy concerns of the data that have to be considered. Recent protocols for the healthcare industry through Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) make leveraging this technology more useful for the industry.
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The first thing to investigate is whether the two systems are capable of integrating. If both systems are able to integrate, understanding the integration capabilities of the systems will also be key. If either system can’t integrate it is known as a closed system. No integration would be possible. If an integration is possible the next key questions would be to understand what data elements are needed to be exchanged and the frequency of the integration.
Once these key questions are answered it will help impact the technical side of the integration. A more technical review of the integration will reveal several other factors to consider like security levels and protocols, outcome needs, data connection maintenance and more. However, that should only be investigated after the first couple of questions have been answered.
To integrate data, there are many techniques to choose from. The best technique depends on factors such as the integration capabilities of the systems and the specific data that needs integration.
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