Your Interfaces Suck Because You Want Them To
By T. Ruth Hertz
Your interfaces suck because you want them to. Yup, that’s the stone cold reality.
I am looking at you Mr. /Ms. CIO. You may talk all day about interoperability, data normalization, HIEs, standards, etc. but unless the right data in the right format gets to the right place at the right time, you are wasting time and money and possibly risking patient safety.
But wait, you say. We insist that all applications have HL7 interfaces – we even put it in the contract! Yes, maybe you do, but do you take the time to get and review detailed specifications before you sign the contract? Do you require the vendors to demonstrate interfacing their application with the ones you already have? Not just give you a list of other clients that have “the same systems as you” but actually connect their system to your engine and downstream application test environments? How well would the physicians at your institution react to being given a list instead of a demo and / or site visit?
Do you let your interface experts ask the tough questions during due diligence? If you do, does it matter when the answers are wrong or evasive? Or do you just accept it when the vendor says, “You can fix it in the engine?” Do the interface experts get to go on the site visit, see the interface in action, and talk to the folks that have had to actually make the interface work?
Let’s face the facts:
- It is in the application software vendor’s best interest to not interface well with other vendors’ apps. Selling a suite of apps that work well together but not well with others makes buying their products as a set look like the smart thing to do.
- Application software vendors can make their interfaces work. They have the source code and the underlying database. They just need a very good reason to do so – like “no sale” if they don’t.
- Your interface staff time isn’t free. All the time spent on analyzing, designing, and building workarounds to compensate for deficiencies in the sending and/or receiving applications costs hard money. That time is also time lost from other projects.
It’s time that the decision-makers who buy healthcare apps put a stop to this madness and insist that true interoperability be delivered by the software vendors – or no sale.