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Streamlining Healthcare IT: Cost-Effective Strategies for Legacy System Integration

In the rapidly evolving landscape of technology, healthcare organizations often find themselves grappling with the challenges associated with legacy systems. Some of the legacy systems that are used in the healthcare industry are Electronic Health Record (EHR) Systems, Hospital Information Systems (HIS), Laboratory Information Systems (LIS), Radiology Information Systems (RIS), ERPs, Telemedicine Systems, Claims Processing Systems, Patient Engagement Systems and more.

These outdated legacy systems need transformation to meet the demands of data security, interoperability, and technological advancements.  The conventional approach of replacing outdated and new systems isn’t always practical, as it can introduce unforeseen challenges. This is where the concept of legacy system integration becomes crucial. 

Legacy system integration is a strategic solution for modernizing legacy systems without complete replacement. Whether in healthcare or other industries, this approach offers a nuanced path to digital transformation. Legacy system integration is not merely a choice; it has become a cornerstone in navigating the complexities of technological evolution.

In this blog, we will delve into the intricacies of legacy system integration, covering its fundamentals, challenges, solutions and strategies. So, let’s delve into the essence of legacy system integration.

What Does Legacy System Integration In Healthcare Mean?

Legacy system integration in healthcare involves the process of connecting outdated or legacy healthcare systems with modern systems, both on-premises and in the cloud. Limited interoperability, security concerns, expensive maintenance, and potential disruptions to overall workflow effectiveness characterize these legacy systems in healthcare. The integration aims to enable seamless communication between older healthcare software components and new, advanced systems, addressing challenges related to data exchange, security, and compliance with modern healthcare standards.

Benefits of Legacy System Integrations

  • Improves operational efficiency: Legacy system integration eliminates the tedious task of manual data transfer. Hence, it saves time, reduces errors in business processes and improves overall operational efficiency.  
  • Helps in utilizing existing data: Legacy system integration allows the utilization of existing reports, business intelligence, and customer data, which otherwise remains unused or gets lost with time. 
  • Allows access to advanced functionalities: Integration helps companies update their existing systems with new functionalities such as modern BI dashboards, improved people management tools, and other innovative services. 
  • Enables faster implementation of new solutions: Integration enables faster implementation of new technologies compared to complete modernization. Also, new solutions can be implemented even faster by building an API for legacy applications.
  • Saves from the hassle of complete modernization: Integrating existing systems with third-party tools allows improvement without completely modernizing the core business system.
  • Requires less training effort: Integrating new technologies into a legacy system requires minimal training effort compared to replacing the entire system. Instead of training staff extensively for a complete software overhaul, integration focuses on bridging the gap, necessitating training only for the added functionalities.

Now that we have seen the potential benefits of legacy system integration let us look at a few situations or scenarios where it is more relevant and required.

When is Legacy System Integration Relevant?

  • To reach the market faster, legacy system integration is all you need. Building an entirely new system from the ground up requires more effort and time. However, integrating new functionalities into your existing system speeds up the time to market, requires less effort, ensures faster deployment and presents a competitive advantage.
  • When you want to increase the performance of your existing system, you can integrate new technologies that are more reliable and ensure better performance. 
  • In healthcare, stringent data standards demand a secure data transfer process. Outdated legacy software lacks data security and makes it necessary to opt for legacy system integration.
  • In the healthcare sector, staying abreast of modern technology is crucial for maintaining a reputable image. Continuing to rely on outdated software can hinder progress. Embracing innovation enhances the image of healthcare organizations and helps them serve their customers better.
  • Cost savings is one of the ultimate goals for every organization, and this is precisely where healthcare organizations need legacy system integration because it is less expensive than the complete replacement of a system as it requires less time, resources and investments. 
  • Healthcare systems house large volumes of critical legacy data, and its migration can cost much more than dealing with the drawbacks of old software. By integrating your existing healthcare system with a newer system, you can unlock the total value of this data.
  • Legacy healthcare systems contain certain critical functions for the seamless performance of tasks they were designed for and for business continuity. Thus, it is advisable to opt for legacy system integration instead of replacing the entire system.
  • Lastly, if you need an intuitive interface, added functionality, better security, and easy data sharing with systems essential for industry and regulatory compliance, legacy system integration is highly relevant in all these cases.

Legacy System Integration Challenges

Although there are plenty of benefits of integrating legacy systems with modern systems, there exist specific challenges that need to be properly addressed: 

  1. Monolithic Systems
  • Challenge: Monolithic architectures complicate integration due to clunky code and complex architecture.
  • Solution: Conduct an architecture audit to decide on retaining or replacing parts of the old system, ensuring a seamless integration process.
  1. Lack of Expertise
  • Challenge: Integrating legacy systems requires expertise in obsolete technologies, which may be scarce.
  • Solution: Develop strategies to source or train experts in obsolete technologies, ensuring a skilled workforce. If expertise is unavailable, consider rewriting components using a new tech stack during modernization.
  1. Insufficient Documentation
  • Challenge: Legacy applications often lack proper documentation, making system understanding challenging.
  • Solution: Establish documentation standards and processes, minimising system logic issues and patching complexities.
  1. Low Data Quality
  • Challenge: Legacy data formats may deviate from modern standards, requiring cleanup for integration.
  • Solution: Prioritize data cleanup and transformation to align with modern standards before integration.
  1. Security Issues
  • Challenge: Legacy apps are vulnerable to cyber threats, posing risks during integration.
  • Solution: Engage a reliable vendor to assess and mitigate security risks, ensuring data protection during and after integration. 

3 Most Common Types of Legacy System Integration

  1. Service layers: To modernize a legacy system, adding service layers is a popular strategy as they act as intermediaries between outdated applications and new systems and transform the data before it reaches the new or existing system. 
  1. Data access layers (DALs): DALs act as a database and give developers easier access to various stored data, making information retrieval easy. It also allows changes to the logical data without affecting the business layer. DALs prove beneficial for modern systems, particularly when scalability is essential. By using DALs, businesses can replicate data solutions, supporting the deployment of business intelligence or artificial intelligence solutions.
  1. Application Program Interfaces (APIs): APIs stand out as a widely adopted model for legacy system integration. They unveil the functionalities of legacy software for external integration, simplifying the overall process. APIs offer flexibility and enhanced performance, making them crucial in ensuring seamless integration between legacy and modern systems.

Steps To Build A Successful Legacy System Integration Strategy

  1. Assess integration needs: Before embarking on the integration journey, it’s essential to have clear objectives in place. A good starting point is to identify the specific goals you want your system to achieve:
  • Improved operational efficiency
  • Enhanced UX
  • Data effectiveness
  • Data security, etc. 
  1. Define KPIs to measure success: Once you have a clear set of integration goals, selecting the right metrics to measure success is essential. While KPIs differ for every organization, here are some common KPIs that cover the requirements of various stakeholders. 
  • Consumption Rate
  • Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) or ROI
  • API Speed (response times, failure rates, defect rates)
  • Platform Performance (usage and cost statistics)
  • User Satisfaction
  • Process Compliance
  • Rework Levels, Error Rates, Defect Levels, Testing Effort and Clearance Times
  • Traffic Analysis (across channels, bounce rate, conversion rate)
  • Development, Testing, and Assurance Efforts
  1. Assess existing technological capabilities and future needs: Evaluate your current technological capabilities and anticipate future needs by reflecting on your system’s limitations. Identify the new technology required to achieve your integration objectives and ensure the seamless functioning of key processes post-integration. Consider the following factors:
  • Existing Technology Assessment
  • Software and Architecture Options
  • Integration Budget
  • Data Migration in Legacy System Integration
  • Integration Timetable
  • Risk Mitigation in Legacy System Integration
  1. Implement integration strategy: Now that you have a clear roadmap, it’s time to start implementing your legacy system integration strategy. To implement integration, begin with a phased approach, as integrating all systems at once can cause many problems. Consider achievability and deadlines and carry out integrations in order of priority. 
  1. Enable thorough testing: QA testing plays a pivotal role during implementation. Therefore, create a detailed test plan and sign-off criteria. Take a localized testing approach and start testing within specific departments on a smaller scale to ensure easy refining and fine-tuning.
  1. Ensure post-integration support: The work doesn’t stop once the legacy system integration strategy is complete. Next up, you need to make a post-integration support plan. For example, post-integration, you must introduce resources to the learning management system and bring in external trainers to coach your staff on added functionalities. You also need to bring in a remediation plan for any errors that might occur post-integration. 
  1. Plan for continuous improvement: You need to create a continuous improvement plan. Consider developing a forward-thinking integration strategy and integrating new and emerging systems. Create a plan for turning core systems into API products to stay relevant and up-to-date.

Final Thoughts

By now, it is clear that outdated legacy systems hinder business growth and success. While transitioning to a new system poses risks and challenges, a well-designed legacy system integration strategy offers a viable solution. Instead of a complete overhaul, integration allows businesses to access newer systems, safeguard legacy data, and mitigate challenges associated with change. 

However, legacy system integration comes with its own challenges and requires a comprehensive strategy that includes testing, implementation, and future-proofing. By following the steps mentioned in this article and partnering with a reliable IT vendor like Neev Systems, you can stay on the right path toward successful legacy system integration. 

Neev Systems specializes in providing strategic implementation and advisory services, ensuring the smooth integration of applications within your IT stack. We excel in delivering real-time and consistent data views across systems. Our team of experts utilizes leading integration platforms and follows best practices to design, implement, and manage tailored integration solutions that cater to your specific business requirements.

Partnering with us grants you access to agile delivery models, reusable integration patterns, and cost-effective dual-shore operations. Our solutions and methodologies are designed to reduce IT complexity, enhance agility, and provide you with a competitive edge.

Connect with our experts today to explore the comprehensive benefits of our enterprise integration services!