Why Legacy System Integration is Necessary for Health Apps

Digital Health Funding is Driving Transformation

If you look around, almost all industries have significantly digitized their customer touch points, but healthcare has been slow in catching up. Until the pandemic that is. The pandemic opened the eyes of many large health systems, health plans and even the investor community to recognize the need to continue engaging patients and deliver care at their home as hospital footfalls reduced dramatically.

There are lots of start-ups and innovators seeing a genuine opportunity to transform healthcare. Executives are showing commitment to multi-year transformation programs and Digital health funding for 2022 is on track to again cross $20 billion after a record 2021. We will continue to see more new players entering the market.

Interoperability is Key to Adoption

For those of us who have been in healthcare IT for more than two decades, we’ve seen interoperability as one of the thorniest problems for years—especially around how we move patient data securely from one healthcare setting to another without any information loss.

Interoperability is now an even bigger focus area as only an open-data ecosystem fosters the kind of innovation healthcare needs. Well-funded healthcare startups and innovators are realizing that, despite their superior products, they can face resistance from healthcare execs who want to avoid creating more information and process silos.

New players must demonstrate how they can easily integrate with existing workflows. And unfortunately, healthcare integrations continue to be complicated. There’s a lack of strict rules —most standards like HL7, FHIR and others are like guidelines where every health system tweaks them and forces de novo integration patterns. The variety of data access and integration methods can take away significant bandwidth from small players who want to focus on the core product development. Also, these new players must be careful to not pass heavy integration costs to their customers even before they proved their value.

Without that integration, startups and new players will have very little chance of getting adopted. Health systems are facing physician burnout due to inefficient systems adding significant work in their daily routine. They have finally adopted electronic health records (EHRs) after years of regulatory push. Bringing more apps into the mix where end-users must log in outside their normal workflow to look up information will hinder—not help—industry stakeholders.

Lack of Data Integration is not an Option

A lack of integration with legacy healthcare systems is like trying to swim and not get wet. It’s not possible. If you want to be a serious player, you need to take the plunge. You need to be comfortable with healthcare data standards, the ugliness of integrating non-standard healthcare data, and handling different kinds of formats.

That is why we see a set of digital health players crafting a clear strategy on data integration. Some do not see data integration as core and choose to work with partners who are experts at handling integration and do it efficiently. That way these new players can conserve bandwidth for true product innovation and differentiate themselves.

EHRs Should be Central to Your Integration Strategy

Major EHRs continue to expand their road map on digital capabilities in aspects of patient engagement, care delivery and other admin functions. The biggest argument for health systems to go with an EHR first approach is the seamless integration of the EHR modules with the core workflows. While staying with the EHR reduces risks for health IT execs, what we observe is that the most progressive health systems go for best-in-class digital tools and integrate with their EHR.

This is all the more reason that digital health players should not solely focus on their product and get blindsided by the importance of integration. Many apps are registering themselves in the EHR app galleries and advertising their integration with the workflows.

Sign up to receive our latest insights