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Business Transformation in Action

Joe McKendrick

Healthcare's Ailing IT: SOA to the Rescue?

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Healthcare is an area just crying out for better IT. 

First of all, healthcare establishments are awash in data that needs to be properly managed in accordance with very strict mandates. Take HIPAA, for example. Medical records need to be maintained for the life of the patient, and X-ray images need to be maintained for at least seven years. An X-ray image may be a high-priority item within the first month of a medical procedure, but after that, chances are it will never be needed again. Thus, information needs to be stored in different tiers, at different priority levels.

And the regulations keep expanding. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (the ARRA, also known as the Economic Stimulus Bill) includes among its many provisions the creation of the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology and incentives for the adoption and use of electronic health records (EHR) technology by Medicare and Medicaid professionals and hospitals. In addition, ARRA extends HIPAA data breach rules to business associates dealing with healthcare providers, as well as handlers of electronic health records.

Data is all over the place - in patient records, customer relationship management solutions, staffing and medical inventory systems, and claims processing and billing applications.The other part of the challenge is organizational; dealing with the burgeoning amount of regulation around the way this information is managed.

Still, throwing more information technology may not help things. Late last year, researchers at Harvard Medical School released a study of 4,000 hospitals that concluded that IT systems actually are costing healthcare institutions more money than they save. And any improvements in healthcare processes or quality have been minimal.

The need for more agile and responsive IT in the healthcare sector has not been lost on vendors with SOA offerings. As Rob Barry notes in TechTarget, companies have started positioning offerings designed to improve hospital systems and patient care, with a service-oriented twist. He observes that both Oracle and Axolotl Corp. released products at the 2010 Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) Conference: Axolotl announced its SOA platform for the healthcare industry, dubbed Elysium Open Access, which "connects users into the Health Information Exchange (HIE) via exposed Web services." Oracle, for its part, announced an enterprise healthcare analytics product for data integration and warehousing. 

In this blog (formerly known as "SOA in Action"), Joe McKendrick examines how BPM and related business and IT approaches can promote business transformation.

Joe McKendrick

Joe McKendrick is an author and independent analyst who tracks the impact of information technology on management and markets. View more

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