How one lab interfaced with 100 EHRs, saving $120,000 annually
Cedar Knolls, New Jersey-based MedLabs Diagnostics, a full-service diagnostic lab, had a growing ambulatory customer base and a backlog of electronic health record implementations. Its clinical customers used numerous different EHRs, many of which were relatively new on the market, with varying capabilities to import electronic lab results, create clean and complete lab orders and provide informative lab results to patients.
The problem was, in a word, interoperability, said Wajid Ullah, vice president and CIO at MedLabs.
"We're interfaced with close to 100 distinct EHRs, ranging from small companies catering to smaller practices that have developed their own EHR all the way to software behemoths found in hospitals," Ullah said. "Each company has unique specifications for sending orders and receiving results and my outreach system simply wasn't able to handle all the subtle changes between interfaces."
MedLabs turned to Liaison Technologies, a cloud-based data integration and data management technology vendor that can be used by hospitals, group practices, labs and other provider organizations. By bringing in Liaison's ALLOY Platform for Healthcare for lab outreach, the proposal was that MedLabs could reduce implementation rollout time – an integration between MedLabs' systems and a provider organization's EHR – to weeks instead of months while eliminating Medicare reimbursement write-offs and reducing operating expenses.
There are many companies that offer data integration and data management technology and services. Some of these vendors include Azuqua, Dell Boomi, IBM App Connect, IFTTT, Informatica Cloud, Jitterbit, PieSync and Zapier.
MEETING THE CHALLENGE
The ALLOY Platform acts as a middleman and handles all the integration and data management between the lab and its clients' EHRs.
"The only thing I need to worry about is maintaining my connection with Liaison, the platform does the rest," Ullah said. "It monitors connections with my clients ensuring they're able to send orders and receive results; it handles data translations. Have an EHR that needs a specific value in ORC 13? No problem. The platform handles that. Have an EHR that cannot translate insurance codes? No problem. The platform can handle that."
That is Ullah's favorite part about the platform: While there is an easy-to-navigate user interface to monitor orders and results, no one has to use it, Ullah said.
"When setting up the interface, a 'flex connector' is installed on the client's end and that's essentially all that needs to happen," Ullah explained. "To my provider clients, the setup is quick and seamless."
Through its use of the platform, MedLabs Diagnostics reduced the time it takes to perform an integration between MedLabs' systems and a provider's EHR to weeks instead of months, eliminated $33,000 in Medicare reimbursement write-offs, and reduced its operating expenses by more than $120,000 annually.
"To start off, Liaison has an entire team of engineers working behind the scenes," Ullah said. "Their solution is delivered as a managed service, which means they handle the integration, so we don't have to. Without Liaison, if my interface group is engaged I may not even be able to begin a new client interface for many weeks. This adds to the overall time an interface takes to complete."
Liaison's team is able to work on many more simultaneous interface projects, which greatly reduces the time to complete an interface, Ullah added. The time required for interface completion is generally reduced to two or three weeks, which means that it's done before the lab's team would even have the opportunity to start the work, Ullah said.
"Second, the 'flex connector,'" Ullah said. "This secure connector allows us to establish connectivity with clients without having to engage their IT teams and without having to go through the time-consuming task of establishing a VPN connection. On average, I've come to expect a two- to three-week timeframe to completion from Liaison for interfaces."
As for reducing operating expenses by more than $120,000 annually, the largest amount of savings came from staffing.
"The platform has easily saved me one to two FTEs on my interface team," Ullah said. "Then there's the savings in my network group from not having to monitor and support hundreds of additional VPN connections."
ADVICE FOR OTHERS
"We all know there are multiple products out there, but go with a company that will partner with you – one that will make your success its success," Ullah advised. "Liaison's implementation and support contacts are very responsive – I've seen them respond to and resolve issues at 3 a.m. If an issue arises, they address it with speed and urgency, and because of Liaison's vast library of interfaces, the company may have support contacts at EHRs not available to me. This cuts down time to resolution significantly."