Business Challenge Story
The integration architecture team at University Medical Center (UMC) Freiburg (Universitätsklinikum Freiburg) needed to connect the hospital’s business and patient care applications with its clinical and patient data storage systems to provide a full view of patient care in one location, resulting in better overall care.
UMC Freiburg used a combination of IBM solutions to connect its patient care systems and ensure that it was prepared to use the best technology going forward.
ReducedTime necessary to implement new information-system interfaces
PromotedIntegration and development agility
IncreasedTime the hospital integration architecture team could dedicate to new developments
Business Challenge Story
A Need for Modified Interfaces
UMC Freiburg had two backbone systems, one for patient data storage and one for clinical report archiving. Markus Gogolin, UMC Freiburg’s integration architecture team lead, had to ensure that all new and modified applications could interface effectively with both backbone systems while maintaining consistent service for users. All systems also had to comply with Health Level Seven International (HL7), which provides standards for exchanging patient care and clinical information in electronic health records (EHRs).
“The back-end systems of record have been running about 25 years, and we’re more or less using proprietary interfaces and protocols for communication,” says Gogolin. “The challenge there is that we do not have partners who can modify the interfaces, so we are going to have to do it, and we want to move away from dependence on proprietary interfaces.”
With any modifications to the hospital’s 80 front-end applications, Markus Gogolin and his team were confronted with the daily task of creating new interfaces.
These interfaces were vital to synchronizing all the hospital’s patient, lab and radiologic data, the volume of which doubles every 1–2 years. “We had the idea of building a layer between the front-end applications and the back-end patient data and clinical report systems, so that we wouldn’t have to change interfaces on the applications themselves — a very resource-intensive activity. We wanted to create an information-sharing platform foundation for all the things we want to do in the future.”
A Three-Tiered Approach
UMC Freiburg implemented three components from the IBM Integration foundation portfolio: IBM App Connect, IBM Integration Bus Healthcare Pack and IBM MQ. The solution connected the medical center’s applications across its IT environment and provided monitoring, auditing and analytics capabilities. IBM App Connect provided Gogolin and his team with capabilities to build solutions needed to support HL7 integration requirements. IBM MQ ensured that UMC Freiburg’s 80-plus applications communicated with one another securely.
“I have a three-tier architecture implemented,” Gogolin says. “The first layer is a connection layer for the application systems, the second layer is a transformation layer and the third layer is the storage layer communicating with our back-end systems. The glue between these layers is MQ. MQ is very important because it helps us exchange the interfaces without interrupting service to our end users.”
Gogolin also engaged IBM training for in-house education on the IBM software and subscribed to the IBM On Demand Consulting service to receive assistance from the IBM Software Services team.
A Win All Around
By using App Connect and MQ, UMC Freiburg reduced the time necessary to implement new information system interfaces. This resource saving promoted integration development agility, increasing the time the hospital integration architecture team could dedicate to new development.
“Now we have time and resources available for new business developments, whereas before we needed all of our time to fix issues and build numerous interfaces,” Gogolin said. “The problem was that every time we bought new software, we had to make modifications to their interfaces, and that made the software much more expensive. Now, with App Connect, there’s no need for difficult modifications to interfaces; they can connect to our system out of the box.” Gogolin went on to point out that it now takes one person no more than a week to integrate a new application to the organization’s back-end system, as opposed to 1–6 months previously. There were even cases where the organization was never able to use software it purchased because of an inability to build the necessary interfaces.
This simpler, faster method for building application interfaces at the IT level is invisible to frontline UMC Freiburg personnel, such as doctors, nurses, lab technicians and hospital administrators, but the agility that the software facilitates has a significant impact at the operational and clinical level. “They now have the flexibility to select the best software for their needs without concern as to whether we can connect it to our back-end system,” says Gogolin. “That wasn’t always the case, because software providers had to modify their application in order to integrate it in our system, and sometimes they were not willing. So we’d have to go with alternative, possibly less effective, applications. So it’s a win all the way around.”
About UMC Freiburg
Based in Freiburg, Germany, University Medical Center (UMC) Freiburg (Universitätsklinikum Freiburg) is one of the largest hospitals in Europe, with over 10,000 employees. Its medical professionals and administrators rely on an IT environment consisting of more than 80 clinical, operational and patient care applications.