The word interface is often thrown around in the healthcare IT industry without complete understanding of what an interface is. By definition, an interface is an interaction between software applications. The definition of an interface makes it sound simple! It should be easy to interface your EMR with a health care web portal or your EMR with your practice management system, right? Unfortunately, the answer is usually no. There are several barriers both technically and corporately that make interfaces expensive and often unwarranted ventures.
The Parts Don’t Always Fit
Imagine that Alfred wants a new car, but doesn’t want to buy it. He knows Tim has an old Mustang engine and Bill has a nearly new Corvette with a broken engine. He decides to put the two together to build a new, working car.
Tim can do this because cars have many standard parts that are generally interchangeable. EMRs, Patient Portals, Practice Management Systems and Radiology Systems are have this feature as well, but they often have some “parts” that don’t fit and require an interface to make the systems work together. They usually have completely different database architectures (meaning the way the data is stored in a database), so the fields of data don’t match and are often developed in completely different programming languages. For example, one is programmed in .NET and the other in Java. They often can’t use the same server; even worse, many are simply not designed to communicate with each other using set industry standards like HL7, CCR and CCD.
About CCR and CCD
In the case of the Medical Web Experts Enterprise Patient Portal, we have made it to be CCR (Continuity Care Record) and CCD (Continuity Care Document) compliant. This means that our portal can securely send and receive medical history information – including patient demographics, medications, allergies, family history, surgeries and labs in this format. We created an interface using the CCR and CCD standards. Just like cars have some standard parts that can be interchanged, such as wheels, our health care patient portal uses two industry standards. If we receive a request to develop an interface to an EMR with our Patient Portal, 80% of the work is already done, if the EMR already supports CCR and/or CCD standards.