posted by adgrooms on May 23, 2019

The partnership of medicine and technology has generated solutions for problems across the healthcare landscape. As more problems are solved, the number of software systems and apps that use the same data, but have different or overlapping purposes, continues to increase. At a point, it becomes difficult and time-consuming to manage redundant information across different systems. That is the time, or ideally just a little sooner, to look for integrations.

Software integration is a process of connecting two or more systems so that they can work together, sharing the same data, and possibly, some functionality. One related term you will hear is "API", short for Application Programming Interface. An API is a connection that one system provides so that other systems can communicate and exchange information. The information can travel either one way (either in or out) or both ways (both in and out) allowing smooth communication between the two systems.

Once the systems start working together, the data will synchronize and you have integration. There are many ways that integration can be beneficial in health care. For example, a mobile app could be used to capture data and deliver it to a larger system that doesn’t provide mobile support, such as a time tracker that reports hours to a hospital management system. A mobile dictation system could integrate with the EHR system. Or the other way around, a physician could use a mobile app for chart viewing that could download charts from the EHR system to provide greater convenience and access when a desktop computer isn't available.

Schedules are another area where integration could be beneficial. Physician scheduling and patient scheduling are typically handled by separate systems, and some are even still managed on paper. One possible integration could be the patient scheduling system providing an average number of patients per day or defining busy times of the day where staffing levels need to be adjusted to reflect patient volume. Or simply integrating a physicians schedule into their personal calendar in a secure way can increase visibility and convenience.

It is sometimes hard to know where your software needs will take you. APIs and integrations provide new possibilities and capabilities. In the best cases, they make a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. Software companies that support integration are likely forward thinking and will continue to expand integration capabilities in the future. If you become aware of redundant work or manual data shifting, contact your software partners. A good partner will want to integrate with other products to provide you with more value. If they are unwilling, it may be worthwhile to look for a company that is.

Integrations can help reduce the rising tide of solutions, reduce effort and consolidate information. With the right integrations, your data management should become a lot easier.