Integrating nous pleases health body

The health sector gathers "best-of-breed" applications from all over the world, so it is particularly occupied with integrating disparate products, says Barry Kellaway, business systems manager at the Auckland district health board.

The health sector gathers “best-of-breed” applications from all over the world, so it is particularly occupied with integrating disparate products, says Barry Kellaway, business systems manager at the Auckland district health board.

“Health is made of composite applications,” says Kellaway.

Like other sectors regulated by government, the health industry finds that overseas applications otherwise useful and recognised as “best of breed” do not completely fill the bill, as local laws, regulations and procedures must be built in, Kellaway notes. An efficient integration capability is therefore particularly relevant.

Hence his reaction to the latest version of SeeBeyond’s Integrated Composite Application Network Suite is “pretty favourable”. ICAN 5.0 is designed to integrate the useful parts of legacy software with newly written applications, so investment is not wasted in rewriting.

The framework provided by ICAN 5.0 uses Java 2 enterprise edition (J2EE) and web services to enable rapid building of “composite” systems assembled from these still useful parts, or from applications gathered from many different sources, says SeeBeyond NZ chief Rob Erskine. The use of industry-standard framework elements goes a step beyond conventional enterprise application integration to provide a true “service-oriented architecture”, the company claims. The SOA, a term popularised by Gartner, is a design that loosely but effectively couples services, hiding the details of the technology that provides those services, and separates the services from the interface to them — separating the “what” from the “how”.

Above its existing E-gate integration technology, which ADHB already uses, SeeBeyond layers eInsight, to assist implementation and “orchestration” of business processes, and present them as web services. The eVision Studio layer provides a GUI to build them into applications. As a final layer, SeeBeyond provides a portal.

“We’re in the process of looking at systems to replace our current ones,” says Kellaway. The Ministry of Health is encouraging the adoption of best-of-breed applications, but it is unrealistic to expect an extensive repertoire of these from a single supplier, he says. Hence smooth integration is important.

SeeBeyond seems to have gone to a lot of trouble to acknowledge that an organisation is not going to want to dump all its legacy apps, and to provide for these to be kept, he says.

The ICAN 5.0 framework and the philosophy behind it is not something that can be rushed into, Kellaway says. “To use it effectively, people will have to think carefully about what they want to keep and what they want to replace.”

Competent composite design using the SeeBeyond framework “will probably come to fruition over the next few years”.

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