Selecting The Right Interface Engine

In this installment of Summit Connection I thought it would be worthwhile to discuss the importance of selecting the right interface engine for your Healthcare Information System (HCIS). The interface engine is the central location that ensures clinical and business data is passed smoothly and securely amongst multiple HIT systems. Government regulations such as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009, have mandated hospitals to foster open channels of communication with local physician offices and clinics electronically. This particular act has provided incentives for hospitals to strengthen their HCIS to improve communication flow among multiple entities, with the ultimate goal of improving the safety and quality of patient care.

Why purchase an interface engine vs. using individual point-to-point interfaces?

Implementing an interface engine will provide a healthcare organization the flexibility to develop and manage an array of interfaces from one central application. Here are four examples of how a well-equipped interface engine will provide efficiency and cost-containment to your organization:

  1. Consolidates status and alerting views: Monitors all interface activities from one central location
  2. Enhances flexibility: Maps and filters interfaces to your liking and easily incorporates future interfaces
  3. Automates documentation: Enables seamless reporting and task distribution
  4. Cuts costs: Ensures rapid ROI by reusing interfaces and reducing maintenance fees from multiple interfaces and vendors

What makes a good interface engine?

The best interface engines offer very high levels of flexibility, enabling the user to initiate and control its core functions according to their specific needs and environment. An interface that facilitates exploration and a trial and error process for its users works best; users will become better at incorporating the proper settings for their unique interests.  Most importantly, the interface should assist in preventing user errors, highlighting the most important information upfront. Consistency is also key. A humble layout is simpler to master and also provides a consistent appearance. The design should foster a good balance between maximizing functionality and maintaining simplicity.

If you are in the beginning stages of upgrading your interface there are several items to keep in mind:

  1. Size of organization
  2. Number of facilities
  3. Type of messaging format (HL7 or non-HL7)
  4. Current pain points that are being experienced
  5. Budget constraints
  6. Time needed for training / implementation

Rushing or not undertaking a thorough evaluation when choosing an interface engine could bring about dire consequences for your organization. Remember, choosing a vendor that will properly train your IT staff is of most importance to ensure staff can accurately implement the interface and respond appropriately to a problem. It is also advantageous to maintain a strong partnership with the vendor to receive swift and thorough answers to questions.

Not seen by the end user, but recognized as the “heart” of the entire HIT infrastructure, the interface engine typically goes unnoticed until it fails. If a malfunction to the interface engine does occur, a stoppage to the entire HIT system ensues — resulting in crucial data exchange being halted and patient care being disrupted. That’s why spending the time to choose the proper interface is important!

I look forward to your thoughts.

-Ellen

Next blog post: Best practices to ensure a successful MEDITECH 6.0 migration

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