Integration Remains Top Challenge in Digital EMR Systems

Loraine Lawson
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I’ve seen integration success stories in the medical records field. And we’ve all seen hybrid cloud integration stories.

But this is the first time I’ve seen a hybrid cloud integration story that targeted dental practices. The Australian site ARN has a rather unusual story of Microsoft delivering one of the first hybrid cloud solutions in the country’s health industry.

The solution uses Microsoft’s Window Azure cloud solution to handle the integration work. It’s built specifically for one company, Dental Corporation, which handles accounting, payroll and other office functions for 220 dental practices.


Technically, it’s not so much about the patient as it is about the business data. Although the story says they can and do extract patient records, it’s not clear how that’s used to the advantage of the patient or the dentists.

Microsoft partner and cloud-solutions integrator Breeze designed the solution. While the integration happens in the cloud, the patient network at each dental office feeds data to the Cloud Data Manager. A small, on-site appliance monitors the dentist’s network for changes. Any changes are replicated and delivered to a cloud-based service bus via a URL, ARN reports.

For most EMR systems, integration still ranks in the top five digital-health challenges, according to Arlen Meyers, CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs.

“At this point, there is a hodgepodge of applications and modules stacked on top of each other with little integration or ability to interphase,” Meyers writes in a recent Government Health IT piece. “EMR systems don't talk to telemedicine systems. Remote sensing data can't be integrated and accessed on the EMR. And, of course, we still have places where one EMR cannot talk to another EMR.”

Sigh. I don’t know about you, but I’d really hoped we’d be able to take what we learned from other industries and apply those lessons to EMR without all the drama.

But no. If anything, this integration story seems to be moving toward more drama with recent news that the Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs recently abandoned a $9 billion plan to create an integrated electronic health record system. Instead, each will maintain separate, (but we hope) interoperable systems.



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