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Interface lifecycle management: do more with less

By margo.ellis@caristix.com | Published: November 26th, 2014
Caristix white paper lifecycle managment

Caristix White Paper: HL7 Integration: From Trial and Error to Predictable Project Outcomes and Margins

If you’re responsible for interfacing within a hospital system, a consulting organization, or an HIE, you know one thing: you need to do more with less. With EHR implementations slowing down, the big HIT implementation budgets are drying up. But so much of the promise and value of those systems is tied to interoperability and data exchange, and you’re still accountable for delivering those capabilities. So what do you do?

In this situation, you want to consider a lifecycle approach to your interoperability programs. Interface lifecycle management removes waste from the work by getting rid of ad hoc processes. You’ll be able to do more with less, and as a result, sustain your operations and meet demands for interoperability more easily.

The major phases and potential pitfalls

We’ve outlined the major phases of the interfacing lifecycle below, along with the some of the pitfalls you might encounter.

 Scoping

In the scoping stage, the first step is to understand what systems are in place, what data is available, when it is available, and in what format. Management may underestimate the amount of effort for this phase, since people who not hands-on assume the HL7 standard helps streamline this process. But the standard is such a loose framework that, used on its own, it leads to a lot of trial and error in the next phases. The lifecycle really starts with strong requirements-gathering practices right here in the scoping phase.

Configuration

The next step is to configure or code the interface, or build a bridge that connects two systems. In most cases, developers use an interface engine to handle the mapping and transformation. Even with the use of an interface engine, your team will need good requirements from the scoping phase in order to eliminate waste during this phase.

Validation

In the validation phase, developers (or quality testers) test the interface before it goes into production. If the underlying requirements from the scoping phase aren’t strong, the configuration and subsequent validation will be subject to multiple trial and error cycles – wasted time and effort. What’s worse, you may not discover gaps until the system is in production, affecting data quality, user adoption, and potentially quality of care. From a project management point of view, you also can’t predict the project end-date because it’s impossible to anticipate the defects testers will uncover.

After Go Live, support and maintenance

Is the data flowing as expected? Are new bugs emerging? Use the work your team did in the scoping, configuration, and validation phases to manage and maintain the interface. If you’ve got multiple interfaces, make sure the work from previous phases is readily available to consult in a shared repository. Those requirements from the scoping phase are especially important.

Upgrade decision

Whenever your leadership decides to proceed with a version upgrade of a source or destination system, you’ll need to evaluate the impact on the interfaces that connect those systems. In most cases, an upgrade will mean you start the interface lifecycle all over again. Without the artifacts – requirements, tests, queries – from the previous cycle, you’ll be starting from scratch.

Download white paper on interface lifecycle management

Learn more about interface lifecycle management in this whitepaper from Caristix: HL7 Integration: From Trial and Error to Predictable Project Outcomes and Margins. You’ll get a deep dive on the phases we touched on above, and you’ll come away with a better understanding of the collaboration and operational benefits of adopting interface lifecycle management.