In part one of this series, we looked at how the healthcare industry has changed, requiring integrations and interoperability that were not previously needed.
Having established that the cloud is the way to go and that the hybrid cloud is the stepping stone hospital CIOs are comfortable with, we must ask how DevOps can help.
DevOps in Health Care
The legacy HL7 connection technology healthcare facilities use is a great example of how DevOps brings interoperability to health care and the hybrid cloud. “We have a cloud-hosted HL7 interface that can connect to any number of different hospitals and to our system as well. That’s something that would be very difficult to do without a cloud-based HL7 interface,” said Mayank Thanawala, CTO of HealthLoop, a provider of a cloud-based platform to automate follow-up medical care.
Another challenge hybrid cloud can address concerns the registries that track patient episodes and the bundled payment initiatives that health insurance companies use to pay the hospital systems, Thanawala noted. “The challenge is that hospitals have to get the patient data into the registries in order to receive payment.”
A hybrid cloud makes it easier to submit data to the registries because it provides an opportunity to connect to the registries using a system that already connects with the EMR system also and contains other data useful for registries and payments.
Thanawala illustrated registry solutions in the hybrid cloud. The Comprehensive Care for Joint Replacement Program is a large registry hosted by Medicare CMS. Hospitals need data such as diagnosis histories from medical records and patient-reported survey information to submit to this registry. “So, in an example of a hybrid cloud, HealthLoop is a cloud system that uses a web interface to ask the patients the questions and collect the data. Then we use this hybrid cloud-based HL7 interface to query the on-premises EHR (electronic health records) system for all the rest of the data, fill in the blanks, create this file for this registry, and basically solve the hospital’s problem,” he said.
How DevOps Speeds the to the Hybrid Cloud
DevOps and the move to containers have helped accelerate health care’s move to the hybrid cloud. “When you deploy a Ruby on Rails API in, say, a Docker container, because of how the container is configured it is going to take care of logging for all of the applications and transactions and putting those in a store that will keep the transactions for the seven-year period that HIPAA requires,” Thanawala said. This automation saves the hospital CIO the step of having the logging set up.
In the same way, if encryption of data both in flight and at rest is set up automatically in the container default configurations, that’s another matter the hospital CIO doesn’t have to worry about, he said.
If applications are set up as microservices in containers so that they already perform all these functions when containers are created or scaled up, the hospital and HIPAA requirements surrounding these activities automatically are met. “This lets startups like HealthLoop focus on building app functionality so we don’t have to worry about these other more involved matters,” Thanawala noted.
Even with health care’s complex move to the hybrid cloud, the modularity, completeness and singularity of applications in container technology as microservices make it possible to configure the containers, use them as building blocks and to build out efficient, scalable solutions in the cloud, he said. “It allows companies such as Catalyze, a medical systems integration and compliance organization, which we use to offer its products in a PaaS (platform-as-a-service) model using compliant containers so that we can simply deploy the containers and not have to worry about building compliance.”
Saving Time, Effort, Worry
HealthLoop’s story is a great example of how the automation and modularity of DevOps components such as containers and microservices can make or break new business opportunities, such as taking health care to the cloud and solving interoperation challenges.