Giving digital healthcare initiatives a ‘push’ in the right direction
By leveraging open standards-based API gateways – which enable the shift to push notifications – a digital healthcare experience can be delivered to patients and providers.
The healthcare ecosystem is, by nature, both sprawling and siloed. This makes it difficult to co-ordinate care for patients, as their vital medical data is spread across multiple data silos, including medical aids and insurance schemes, hospitals, laboratories and public organisations.
As we see more innovation in healthcare, including the shift to push notifications, greater access to data is required. According to Brian Otten, Digital Catalyst at Axway, patient data is critical, and patients should have a digital copy of their records so that they can access better treatment, more quickly, wherever they are.
Of course, this data is confidential, and thus requires strong controls and security. To this end, he points to the partnership between Axway and Trustlink. This is an example of how both agility and access can be enabled, thanks to the latter’s on-the-ground system integration and implementation expertise, coupled with the former’s success around digital business enablement.
“Basically, what is required is less costly and easier integration of data, as well as compliance with regulations – data must be translated into the relevant standard, to enable the secure and reliable exchange of information,” says Otten.
“This is generating much excitement in the realm of digital healthcare, especially concerning how it can help to overcome many challenges specific to Africa. The large geographic areas, remote clinics and growing base of digital natives all play a role in the increasing demand for putting the experience where the patient is, through push notifications. This is where application programming interface (API) management comes in, as it essentially places a front door over the customer or payment data, and controls access very granularly.”
Otten says the API platform, built on open standards, provides a gateway that sits in front of all the complexity running behind it. This makes it easy for patients and healthcare providers to access the data they need, without having to worry about what goes on behind it – all they see is one gateway, with one policy and one set of protocols.
Asked about the kind of data that resides here, he says it can be clinical, administrative or financial, and encompasses not only patient data but also suppliers and healthcare providers.
“The key to success lies in anticipating all the things that may happen to people, and then moulding the digital experience around meeting these needs. Of course, this anticipatory approach means the potential combinations of data – due to the different things individual patients may want to do – start to explode and the complexity rapidly escalates.
“When building an ecosystem where there is a need to bring data in from external sources, complexity increases further. Managing this usually requires lots of middleware, but the problem with middleware is it's not particularly suited to delivering the ‘push world’.”
The reason the push approach is so effective for the developing world, he suggests, is that it opens up a host of new possibilities. Whether it is enabling virtual patient visits or the ability to access the records of a patient in another part of the country, or simply delivering reminders about prescriptions or chronic medications, it helps to speed things up significantly.
As a systems integrator, explains Igmar Rautenbach, Head: B2B Solutions at Trustlink, the company views its role as one of bringing innovation to the local healthcare market.
“We understand that innovation alone is not enough. The key to digital success lies just as much in how you implement and leverage technology in order to solve specific business challenges,” he says.
“We understand the particular challenges SA organisations face – whether these are regulatory, geographic or power-related, we have a firm grasp of the unique characteristics of this market. This is especially true of South Africa, where many people don’t even have access to effective healthcare. We recognise how a digital experience in this arena can potentially transform people’s lives.”
The beauty of an API-based system like this is that it can work across a multitude of industries, adds Otten.
“For example, in the financial services sector, open banking is growing rapidly, as the development of strong open standards helps to both reduce complexity and improve security in this space.”
Open standards will continue to be vital as we move forward, says Otten, pointing to how industries like supply chain and logistics – with their need to manage everything from order fulfilment to warehouse management and final delivery – and telecommunications are also leveraging this approach.
“We always point out, however, that the benefits of open standards and API gateways are not about technology alone – success also requires a cultural and organisational change as well.
“Ultimately, API management via open standards offers a glimpse of a future in which we will continue to focus on moving beyond the old ways and finding new, better approaches to doing things. In the healthcare arena, this is about ensuring that patients and providers have access to a truly digital experience, even though health itself is essentially a physical issue,” he concludes.