Vendor targets pain of legacy health care cloud integration

Health care in Canada has been going through some growing pains in the last decade. Antiquated systems are on the chopping block, but, due to security concerns and budget constraints, the move to cloud-based storage and access is a slow one, said an exec with a health-care technology vendor.

According to Interfaceware Inc., makers of the just announced Iguana v5 modern health care integration engine, there may be a third option. Instead of sticking with what you have, or fully upgrading from the ground up, Iguana v5, will allow aging health care systems to interact the HL7 (health level 7) industry standard and integrate systems with the cloud.

In short, it would allow health care organizations that “are still using outdated integration engines (not) equipped to handle newer standards and technologies,” to “comply with HL7 as well as emerging standards,” says Eliot Muir, CEO of Interfaceware.

The issue stands, however, that cloud storage and access is still on shaky ground security-wise. David Senf, director of the infrastructure solutions group at Toronto-based IDC Canada Ltd., says the “number one reason today firms of all stripes shy away from cloud is indeed security- and privacy-based.”

“I question the receptivity among Canadian hospitals today to plug into cloud services—even if it is made easier,” says Senf. “Health, like other aspects of the public sector, along with finance, is going to be late adopters of cloud due to compliance and security.”

According to Muir, however, “a lot of antiquated systems used in health care are not privacy-optimized” to begin with. In fact, the changes in hospital technology over the years has left the systems in place a mish-mash of varying vintages and usability. For instance, “IE6 is still the most used browser in hospitals,” he says.

And when the IT vendors for health care institutions “use a lot of point-to-point communication,” inherent in custom-built JAVA and C# integration solutions, “you end up with a lot of programs no one understands,” Muir says.

Art Harrison, vice-president of marketing and communications at Interfaceware, says “a lot of (health care institutions)’ infrastructure predates Windows 2000,” and this can complicate things when new technology and hardware are brought into the fold.

So, by incorporating the older systems where a lot of records are stored, Iguana v5 can make them accessible through a visually-based Web portal.

As to the security questions relating to cloud integration, Muir says that it wouldn’t be hard for the health-care IT vendor to implement SSL encryption and https secure access of the GUI, much like banks have done before.

If the privacy concerns surrounding health care can be assuaged, Alison Brooks, research director at IDC Canada Ltd., thinks “the intrinsically mobile nature of health-care workers and hospital staff would make it ideal environs for cloud solutions.”

Yet, despite this opinion, she said, “financially, however, if hospitals do move to the cloud it’s because they have no other option.”

However, Muir says that an institution could feasibly “get started with a single interface for $750.”

When asked if Iguana v5 could be used as a means to move towards a full conversion of records and hospital IT, Muir said, “it’s a hammer. It can be used to strengthen the old systems or to phase them out.”

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