Clinical care facilities typically use a variety of complex software applications from differing vendors to accomplish every day operational tasks. Because these applications are created by different software teams, they need to be able to exchange data and do so via interfaces.
There are several challenges to building an HL7 interface. Each individual interface requires a sending and receiving module. These modules are created by the software vendor who programmed the application. Even though both applications use the HL7 message format, they rarely agree on which specific HL7 format that is used.
The typical clinical facility or hospital has several HL7 enabled applications and devices. To reduce data entry time and increase overall efficiency of the facility, these applications or devices need to communicate with each other effectively. There are two basic ways this can be accomplished. One way is by a point-to-point connection; the alternative is by utilizing an interface engine.
Adding, changing, or replacing applications in a point-to-point interfaced environment affects not only the ancillary with the new application but potentially the entire system.
When a changed or updated application is introduced in an interfaced environment, all the applications that interface with the updated application are affected. Usually, this means all the endpoints for the updated application must be created or changed to continue communication. In addition, all the software vendors who have interfaces attached to the application have to replace or modify their endpoints to accommodate the new application.
The cost to add a new application in a point-to-point environment is inordinately expensive because existing endpoints cannot be used without modification. In addition to the expense of a new application’s endpoints, all applications which communicate with the new application must have additional endpoints.
White paper: What is Your Healthcare Interfacing Method?
An interface engine can take data from a sending application and filter it or change the format of the data to match each individual application’s needs. An interface engine is designed to simplify connecting, maintaining, monitoring, and sharing data between interfaces. This greatly reduces the number of individual endpoints required to communicate between applications which in turn, saves on the price of implementing of an integrated system.
An interface engine also has the ability to provide detailed information about each connection, such as the number of messages processed, the number of messages errored, how long the connection has been idle, and how many messages are waiting to be processed for a connection. Being able to quickly view information about connections allows the interface team to immediately respond in order to resolve the problem.
The information an engine can provide is extremely valuable when looking at trends of a connection in order to catch problems quickly and estimate hardware and staffing needs to support a particular connection.
White paper: Why Do I Need an HL7 Engine?