Build Versus Buy: A Case Study in Accelerated EHR Integrations
"Even if we had spent the money to build in-house, integrating would have taken us three to six months compared to just a week using Datica."Chris Tyne, Vice President - Product, healthfinch
CASE IN FACT
Finding ways to impact healthcare delivery through automation drives Madison-based healthfinch to innovate and deliver solutions quickly. The company knows that when inefficient workflows and lack of standardizations are addressed for clinicians and healthcare organizations, positive downstream effects result — additional patients can be seen, more personal treatment is made available, and providers have greater understanding of the data that flows into their systems.
From its beginning in 2011, healthfinch knew that electronic health record (EHR) integrations would be key for expansion and clinical adoption. For the first few integrations, healthfinch built non-standard interfaces to move health information back and forth. That worked in the initial stages of the company but knowing that every EHR is different, the team recognized that the level of expertise needed for future integrations would quickly surpass healthfinch capabilities.
Working with a health system’s refill encounters became one of the next integration challenges for healthfinch. The company requires refill information at a precise time, which is the time before someone signs a refill order. “For example, if you go to your local pharmacy to pick up your allergy medication and the pharmacist explains you have no more refills, that pharmacy must call the clinic and put in a request,” says healthfinch VP of Product, Chris Tyne. “We have a unique timing when we can get our information into the system and it is before someone approves or denies the refill. Our information, if provided at the right time, helps the clinic make a better decision on that approval or denial.” That data exchange process lay outside the scope of traditional standards, like HL7, and healthfinch needs to tweak its integration a bit, so that it obtains the right data at the right time.
A WEIGHTED SOLUTION
Tyne contacts Datica when healthfinch moves toward using a more defined structure and away from the custom coding it uses to move data from point A to point B. He does this after weighing internal versus external options. The company first identifies that it could hire a team to set up a secure infrastructure to connect with health systems. To help make a ‘build versus buy’ decision, healthfinch first answers two critical questions that all healthcare vendors ask when it comes to healthcare integrations:
- How much will it cost to build in-house integration expertise?
- How fast can we turn around integrations internally versus using external expertise?
To weigh the cost factor, Tyne says, “We would need to hire at least one full-time employee to work on it, likely several more in the process, and then we have the acquisition cost of new servers.” Likewise, if the company considers that if it builds the internal expertise, it must also build a new core competency. While quite adept at making clinical decisions within its own software, Tyne says moving data from point A to point B has always been a struggle.
While cost is weighed, speed is what matters most to Tyne and his team. “Even if we had spent money to build in-house, integrating would have taken us three to six months compared to just a week using Datica Managed Integration Services.”
Originally, healthfinch built custom web services for patient scheduling, note transcription, and other clinical tasks, but the company feels these customized solutions won’t meet all of its needs. As it migrates into the Datica world, Tyne says, “we are able to find replacements for all of our custom needs and dig deeper into the HL7 standards.” At this point, the company no longer worries about building one-off code for each instance.
“We are able now to send and receive all the information that we need right through Datica and are in the process of moving all of our other customers off the old system into Datica,” says Tyne. “That’s our direction moving forward; we also have a bunch of new customers coming down the pipeline and we are happy to bring them in.” Being able to scale quickly with new customers is important to healthfinch. Tyne shares, “We’re also in the process of starting up some of our newer products, which will also use the Datica integration.”
“We are able now to send and receive all the information that we need right through Datica and are in the process of moving all of our other customers off the old system into Datica.” Chris Tyne, Vice President of Product, healthfinch
Today, healthfinch views Datica as part of its team. Tyne says, The Datica team lives up to our standards, as far as support and professionalism with the customer; in most cases, the customer doesn’t necessarily know where healthfinch ends and Datica begins.”
IMPACT OF TODAY’S INTEROPERABILITY
The industry is awash in discussions around universal integration to connect multiple and varied EHRs. While a strong possibility for the future, Tyne says it’s incredibly challenging today and something most people can’t realize. “From a Datica perspective, it’s straightforward. We can get an integration up in a short amount of time without worrying about building into a specific third-party integration suite.”
Founded in 2011, healthfinch’s mission is to transform healthcare delivery by automating what can be automated, delegating what can be delegated, and simplifying the rest. It’s flagship product, Swoop, integrates seamlessly with leading electronic medical record systems to automate the prescription refill request workflow. Building on Swoop’s success, healthfinch is building a Practice Automation Platform to simplify additional workflows. healthfinch is headquartered in Madison, Wisconsin, has 30 staff, all dedicated to building solutions to healthcare’s biggest challenges: inefficient workflows, physician and staff burnout, and managing the massive volume of population health and EMR data.
Datica (formerly Catalyze) makes digital health in the cloud a reality by removing the risks that prevent its adoption. We turn HIPAA compliance on public infrastructure providers into a solved problem, and enable secure clinical data exchange between mission-critical digital health applications and EHR systems. Datica serves healthcare’s complete spectrum, from digital health startups and industry leaders to health systems across the nation. Hundreds of customers and partners trust Datica to ensure their clouds are HITRUST certified and data securely interoperable. For more information, visit datica.com.