Do You Suffer from Interface Black Box Syndrome?


Interface Black Box Syndrome is characterized by lack of visibility into the critical details that can hurt an interface. It can affect any hospital IT leader who is responsible for interfacing, but the most susceptible are dependent on 3rd parties and/or consultants. Fortunately, Interface Black Box Syndrome is treatable, and there are ways to reduce the risk that the syndrome will recur.


The signs and symptoms are almost always chronic and sub-acute. But they can explode into a world of expensive maintenance and support. Symptoms include:

  • Lack of interface system specifications: can impact both current interfaces and those under development.
  • Lack of change management detail: understanding how the interface changed over time and which fields, mappings, and data were impacted.
  • Limited interface request information. How the request originated vanishes in an email archive or a crowded shared drive. A few months after delivery, the request can’t be connected back to the interface itself, so crucial details are missing for support.
  • Knowledge transfer is informal at best and absent at worst. Regardless, knowledge leaves with the consultant or contractor.
  • No interface inventory exists. Or it might be stuck in an Excel spreadsheet containing each and every interface you think you have.


The major cause of Interface Black Box Syndrome is business-as-usual, which happens when you leave it to your sub-contractors or consultants to “manage” the environment you are accountable for.


  • Start by requesting an inventory of your interfaces. Capture their specifications at the same time.
  • When you scope interfaces, insist on a thorough gap analysis, and ask to see the documentation.
  • Get interface specification feedback from HIT vendors before consultants start, leaving a clearer picture and faster execution (lower bill) for you at the end.