Healthcare is dis-integrating its information

Significant parts of American business are integrating information through industry wide interfaces and Enterprise Resource Planning systems (ERP). What is healthcare doing? In too many cases, healthcare is moving in the opposite direction and dis-integrating its information.

Electronic Medical Records (EMR) systems are being designed using proprietary solutions with a facility or group focus that limits the ability to share information outside the facility or beyond a limited group. This is providing better and better data that is aligned to the needs of a limited set of providers with little or no regard for the total healthcare needs of their patients. If a patient needs the services provided by our limited group,we can help. If patients need a service that is not provided by our group, the best we can offer are the services that have been available for years – services from the time before computers.

Clinical systems are being developed using proprietary solutions and are silo focused which makes data and processing incompatible even within organizations.

A Google search for “erp systems for healthcare” lead to a list of links. The top ten included nothing newer than two from 2007, two from 2006, one from 2004, two from 2001, three undated and a vendor job board.

One of the links dated 2007 was Healthcare ERP and SCM (Supply Chain Management)  Information Systems: Strategies and Solutions by HIMSS. The summary of findings included:

Healthcare is far different in its expectations for enterprise-wide systems and solutions due to the nature of the business. The concern that errors in the processes and technology can lead to severe and undesired outcomes has far greater impact than any other industry with ERP and SCM needs. That is why it is alarming that while clinical systems and medical devices continue to evolve, thus contributing to greater and more positive outcomes, the current ERP and SCM solutions are built on 20- to 40-year-old technologies, programming languages, and architectures.

Every technology department has experienced integrating their ERP and SCM information systems with proprietary and cumbersome clinical systems, which are defined in specialties and single purpose roles. In addition, the information remains separated requiring several databases and stores, which are incompatible and not designed to work together. The crisis in healthcare has moved from the operating room to the server room with a need for greater response from the ERP and SCM IS vendors. The healthcare environment and the systems that support it have become too difficult for users to fully utilize all the system capabilities. With constrained budgets and limited resources, the entire system to support the hospital’s business administrative needs becomes a conglomeration of excel, post-it notes, e-mails, and bytes. [emphasis added]

Healthcare reform and cost control will require multiple solutions that include more effective capture, integration and application of patient, clinical and operation data. Integration, not continuing dis-integration.

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