Industry Standards for the Healthcare Industry
Industry standards are the foundation for process interoperability between SAP and non-SAP applications and platforms. Industry standards define a common language, which is required to cost-effectively enable process integration between systems, both inside an organization and across the value chain. Standards enable process flexibility by providing concrete rules for integration that have been developed by representatives of the healthcare community. SAP has worked with numerous industry standards organizations to enable more efficient and effective business processes.
The following organizations produce standards that SAP customers in the healthcare industry have found to be most useful in enabling processes between applications as well as their trading partners. The standards produced by these organizations are frequently leveraged in SAP solutions packages.
Industry Standards for Healthcare are separate from, yet closely related to, Industry Standards for the Life Sciences Industry. The Industry Standards for the Life Sciences Industry section of the Life Sciences Industry BPX has more information on specification related to both healthcare and life sciences.
Industry Standards for Health Care
Health Layer Seven (HL7) is an ANSI accredited standards organization that focuses on the interface requirements of the entire health care organization, including clinical and administrative data. It is an international community of experts that creates and promotes the use standards for the exchange, management and integration of electronic healthcare information. HL7 focuses on object models and message structures for healthcare information that needs to be exchanged between systems. The extensible nature and optional elements in these structures are one of the reasons for the adoption of these specifications.
Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise (IHE) is an initiative by to improve the sharing of electronic healthcare data, not by inventing its own set of standards, but rather by profiling specifications that already exist, like HL7, to address specific clinical needs in support of optimal patient care. By reducing the number of optional elements, systems that conform to IHE profiles should be able to communicate with one another more easily.
In April 2011 SAP successfully participated at the European Connectathon in Pisa (SAP for Healthcare gets Stamp from Global Authority on Standards for Interoperability). The obtained Integration Statement can be found here.
The United States Congress passed the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) in 1996. Title II of the Act focuses on simplifying administration procedures, and requires the establishment of national standards for electronic health care transactions, national identifiers for providers, health insurance providers, and employers. Additionally title II addresses the sensitive nature of this data by requiring security and privacy provisions. The result is standards designed to facilitate more efficient processes in the healthcare industry, and these are manifested in the HIPAA/EDI set of standards. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), a federal agency that administers the Medicare and works with states to administer Medicaid, required that all providers file their claims electronically using these EDI standards after July 1st, 2005 or they would not be reimbursed.
The Systematized Nomenclature of Medicine (SNOMED) pursues advancements in patient care through their terminology and implementation support products and services. The clinical terminology covers diseases, technical findings and procedures, allowing for a consistent way of describing, indexing, storing, retrieving, and aggregating clinical data.
More on Standards and Interoperability
Standards and Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA)
SOA is a business-driven software architecture that increases adaptability, flexibility, openness, and cost-efficiency. With SOA, organizations can compose applications and enable business processes rapidly using enterprise services. With SOA, organizations can improve their reuse of software and become more agile in responding to change. Standards are critical to SOA as they enable SAP and non-SAP applications and services to interoperate, so that they work together as seamlessly as possible, without adding unnecessary cost and risk to the business.