Modern health care is a complex orchestration of many different participants who need to cooperate in order to deliver effective treatment. The simplest office visit requires the patient to interact with a number of healthcare professionals within the doctor’s office, and the most complex episodes of care involve team members from several unrelated organizations spanning multiple weeks, months, or even years.
Every successful episode of care depends on teamwork, and teamwork depends on communication.
Health care organizations rely on their communication infrastructure to keep team members in touch with patients and one another but communicating in a health care setting has some requirements that set it apart from other industries. Health care communications need to be:
- Secure: sensitive health care information requires a high standard of protection
- Reliable: patient information cannot be lost or damaged as it moves from sender to receiver
- Ubiquitous: standard technology allows for easy communication across organizational boundaries
- Point-to-point: ideally, the messages should end up in front of the exact individual that needs to see it
Pagers and fax machines were the first technologies to fulfill all of these requirements, and they were the state of the art for a long time in health care. More recently, however, software-based communication has taken over as the preferred method of connecting team members, and hundreds of vendors provide Secure Messaging Software Solutions to the healthcare industry.
Separate and apart from the human-to-human communication problem, health care organizations have solved the problem of connecting their enterprise systems, such as EHRs and billing systems, to one another. Machine-to-machine communication typically happens using standards like HL7 and tools like the Rhapsody interoperability platform.
These two unconnected communication networks have existed in parallel within health care organizations for many years; however, there is a growing trend toward moving these distinct networks closer to one another. It’s no longer sufficient for team members to communicate directly with one another while the clinical software has a separate conversation about the same patients. There’s now a need to bridge the human and machine communication networks.
As more and more patient data is stored electronically, the events and notifications generated within software systems need to be shared with human caregivers. By the same token, caregivers need to be able to send data to clinical software systems through a messaging interface rather than directly using the software.
In today’s environment, the preferred approach to bridging the human and computer messaging networks is for the secure communication software to receive standard HL7 messages from the existing clinical systems. For example, the laboratory information system (LIS) might send a notification of a final lab result to the hospital’s EHR. The same message would be routed to the Secure Messaging Software Solution and converted into a human-readable message about the patient.
A Secure Messaging Software Solution is engineered to send and receive messages between human participants. In order to receive HL7 messages from clinical applications, the Secure Messaging Software Solution needs the ability to securely receive and reliably translate HL7 to a human-readable language, and that’s where a tool like Rhapsody can be beneficial.
Secure messaging software vendors can take advantage of Rhapsody’s experience connecting health IT vendors to the broader health care ecosystem through its OEM vendor program with a much quicker time to value than building an integration solution in-house.