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We’ve entered the next era of healthcare, and simply having an electronic health record (EHR) isn’t enough to address modern challenges like growing patient expectations, stretched IT resources, and siloed data. By embracing interoperability, you can ensure that your applications, software, systems, and services can communicate to create a seamless experience for both patients and providers that this new era demands. 

During our recent event, “Embrace interoperability: Establishing an API-led strategy and culture,” we explored the University of Washington Medicine Health System’s interoperability journey with MuleSoft, and how building this foundation for digital transformation doesn’t typically happen overnight. 

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Slayton Austria, UW Medicine’s Chief Technology Officer, recommends a crawl, walk, run approach when looking past basic EHR for data exchange. He said, “This is new for my organization, so we wanted to start small and grow.” By starting small and expanding over time, UW Medicine embraced interoperability in three ways: 

  • Taking a platform approach with connected, coordinated, and always-on data, systems, and applications. 
  • Adopting a product mindset by treating APIs as products that are easily reused, enhanced, and maintained.
  • Driving a cultural shift that’s focused on the people and processes to enable progress and reuse.

#1 Take a platform approach to deliver on patient experience 

Research indicates that 75% of hospitals manage 10 or more EHRs. As an academic research healthcare system with a family of 28,000 providers, researchers, faculty, and staff across the state, UW Medicine faced interoperability challenges caused by managing multiple EHRs, including Epic, and other legacy data systems.

Slayton said, “We needed a solution that would enable us to go from custom API and development to a fully integrated API platform.” For a complete view of their patients, UW Medicine took a platform approach, which included adopting an API-driven architecture and enabling sharing of data between systems, applications, and devices.

MuleSoft, the world’s #1 integration and API platform, makes it easy to connect data from any system — no matter where it resides — to create connected experiences, faster, and to help clinicians make fully informed care decisions. And with solutions like the MuleSoft Accelerator for Healthcare, IT teams can jumpstart digital transformation initiatives using pre-built APIs, connectors, implementation templates, and a prescriptive end-to-end reference architecture to enable EHR connectivity.   

Enabling interoperability is critical to improving patient experiences and outcomes, including reducing readmissions, as well as reducing clinician burnout that comes with so many disconnected data sources. By integrating systems and unifying data with reusable APIs, you’re able to easily compose connected experiences while maintaining security and control. 

“It’s about patient experience throughout the care journey. Now that we’ve taken the leap into a fully integrated EHR, we’re no longer trying to piece together the experience between different portals, and we can ensure that the patient experience is the best it can be.”

— Slayton Austria

#2 Adopt a product mindset and achieve faster outcomes 

As part of its transformation, UW Medicine also adopted a product mindset, which means treating APIs as products that are easily consumed, enhanced, and maintained. In this environment, information and processes are quickly and securely discoverable, accessible, reusable, and composable into new products, services, and capabilities. 

“As we get rid of siloed systems and move into connecting more modern systems via APIs, we don’t want to go shopping or custom build. We want to have an enterprise catalogue that we’re managing and exposing.”

— Slayton Austria

According to recent research, IT teams today spend 80% of their time integrating instead of innovating. Using MuleSoft’s Anypoint Platform, customers like UW Medicine, UnitedHealth Group AstraZeneca, and UCSF Medical Center can build APIs as products and can use one standard approach to unlock data and connect systems — enabling them to launch new initiatives three times faster.

During the conversation, Slayton described a recent success when UW Medicine exposed COVID-19 immunization scheduling data safely and securely to key external partners in less than five days. Prior to MuleSoft, this process would have taken several weeks. 

Slayton said, “because we had MuleSoft we were able to stand this up in a very streamlined way, and it was phenomenal that we did it in less than five days. Better yet, we were able to set it up so that other health systems could join in as well.”

#3 Drive a cultural shift and become stewards of innovation

“We’ve transitioned into a build once, and use many philosophy.” 

— Slayton Austria

In this new healthcare ecosystem, IT becomes the steward of innovation and the enabler of transformation, instead of managing project-by-project delivery. 

To achieve this, UW Medicine is partnering with MuleSoft to explore new operating models such as a Center for Enablement (C4E) — a cross-functional team that drives reuse and makes development teams more agile. They are applying the same crawl, walk, run approach as they experiment with new ways of working with business partners, beginning with the finance and supply chain teams. 

Slayton said, “We started out with a centralized model, but now we’re dabbling with more of a federated approach and getting the line-of-business users trained.” Using C4E, teams can promote consumption, collaboration, and self-reliance, to ultimately deliver new capabilities at speed and drive digital transformation for their organizations.

Are you eager to embark on your own digital transformation? Check out our whitepaper, “API strategy essentials: How to build an API strategy for your organization,” for a proven, four-stage blueprint to structure your organization’s API strategy journey.

Slayton was not compensated for this blog.