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In our most recent Connectivity Benchmark Report, we surveyed over 951 IT decision makers (ITDMs), and approximately 90% of healthcare IT leaders ranked the adoption of cloud technologies as an “important,” “very important,” or “extremely important” priority for 2017. Why is this so important to the healthcare industry? The typical drivers for cloud adoption (cost savings, better application scalability) are a factor, but there are also industry-specific drivers that have created a sense of urgency around healthcare organizations moving to the cloud.

Healthcare providers are moving to a value-based paradigm. In other words, they are being paid based on the quality of the delivered services instead of just the quantity of services. Therefore, healthcare organizations are under increased pressure to deliver better care outcomes. Delivering better, more efficient care is tied more closely to the bottom line, and cloud applications hold the potential of improving care outcomes.

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For example, the University of California-San Francisco’s Careweb Messenger provides clinicians with anytime, anywhere access to a more comprehensive patient records. This enables more informed clinical decision-making, which, in turn, leads to better outcomes. Sutter Health, a regional healthcare provider in Northern California, provides another example. They’ve developed applications like Discharge Planner, which has led to a 50% decrease in 30-day hospital readmission rates, entirely on the cloud.

In addition, patient expectations are evolving. In an Accenture study, 41% of consumers indicated that they would be willing to switch doctors in order to gain online access to their medical records. Accordingly, cloud-based digital engagement – offering anytime, anywhere access to visit history, lab records, outstanding claims, and other relevant healthcare data – has emerged as a key way to differentiate against competitors.

Connectivity represents a major challenge for healthcare organizations moving to the cloud

It’s not enough to just decide to “move to the cloud,” buy a cloud application off the shelf, stand it up, and expect to deliver the outcomes promised. Cloud applications are only as powerful as the data that powers them. Connectivity is a last mile challenge that often inhibits organizations from achieving the goals they hoped a move to the cloud would support.

The challenges associated with healthcare integration include:

  1. Ground-to-cloud integration: Traditional healthcare integration used to be focused on interfacing between one HL7 system to another. EHR to EHR, EHR to HIE, EHR to LIMS, etc. Web applications and cloud platforms aren’t HL7 friendly; accordingly, the data needs to be transformed into modern standards like JSON in order to power modern applications.
  2. Securely exposing patient data: Patient data powering cloud applications must be treated with a higher standard of care. Because of this, opening up data from the EHRs or CTMS systems creates challenges. Many healthcare organizations struggle to find the right balance between speed and agility, and protecting the security of healthcare data.
  3. Scalable connectivity: It’s one thing to connect one EHR system to one cloud system. More commonly, healthcare enterprises looking to expose EHR data to cloud applications face “many to many” connectivity challenges, with a variety of distinct EHR instances that must connect to an ever-increasing number of cloud applications. When this type of work is scoped out under a traditional point-to-point integration approach, it often exceeds the team on the ground’s existing capacity, necessitating a more efficient approach to connectivity.

API-led connectivity provides a means for healthcare organizations to overcome these challenges

With a different type of integration approach, called API-led connectivity, healthcare organizations can overcome these obstacles. This model calls for data and services from EHRs and other on-premise systems to be exposed to cloud systems via reusable APIs. These APIs can be reused again and again across projects, eliminating the re-work often associated with point-to-point integration. MuleSoft’s experience with healthcare organizations who have implemented this model suggests that 2x to 5x increases in productivity can be realized by this model.

To learn more about how API-led connectivity can help healthcare organizations across the care continuum, from hospitals and health systems, to health insurers and life sciences companies, check out our new healthcare eBook: Prescription for Disruption.