The Real Healthcare Challenge

The proliferation of sophisticated information technologies in the healthcare industry is all but universal today. Hospitals, clinics, labs--virtually all medical facilities--are highly computerized, generating mountains of electronic medical records.

The real challenge for healthcare organizations isn't the IT, says Gary VanderHeiden, but the integration of the many disparate departmental systems that make up the modern healthcare delivery system. Effectively connecting the admitting and registration systems with the radiology department, cardiology, the MRI lab, etc., reduces the paper traffic and increases administrative effectiveness--not to mention what it can do for physician-patient interaction.

"When a patient is registered or admitted to a facility, these departmental systems need patient information," VanderHeiden says. "And they need to be able to pass orders and results back and forth. We connect these disparate systems through an interface engine."

VanderHeiden is the manager of IT at Metropolitan Hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan, an integrated healthcare delivery network that includes a 238-bed teaching hospital, physician organizations, outpatient centers and managed care services. Last year, Metro Health began a project to replace its existing interface engine with a version of a product the organization helped to develop: InterSystems Corporation's Ensemble universal integration platform.

"We were a development partner," VanderHeiden says. "Basically, they did the coding, and we contributed the knowledge of how to deal with HL-7 messages."

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at [email protected].