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Data security, data protection and industry standards such as HL7 FHIR set high quality standards for social and welfare integrations

A blonde nurse on a computer

*The text has been updated in June 2024, the original publishing date is 2022.

Software integration projects in the critical environment of the social and health sector have much in common with integration projects in any other industry, but they do have their own specificities. In the processing of materials containing personal data and health information, and thus also in data transfers, particular emphasis is placed on security, reliability and backup systems, among other things. Industry integrations also use specific, precise policies and standards, including the HL7 family of standards and FHIR specifications.

Software solutions in the social and welfare sector play a key enabler role in the smooth and efficient delivery of services in the industry. The importance of streamlined software solutions is increased by the specificity of the industry, not only in human, but also in economic terms, due to its volume. For social and health services to run smoothly, the software package must also run smoothly.

When deploying new software, the starting point in social and health care organizations is almost invariably that some kind of ecosystem of existing solutions is already in place. Depending on the size of the operator, it can consist of a few core pieces of software or, at the other end, a very complex set of many elements. Typical base systems include CRM systems, customer and patient information systems, HR systems, and payment systems.

Standardized approaches and specifications are applied to ensure that software integrations in the health and welfare sector are as straightforward and seamless as possible for the end user. In Finland, one of the most important is HL7 FHIR.

HL7 FHIR specifications ensure software security and interoperability

HL7 is a family of standards for software interfaces, based on which specifications such as FHIR ensure that data and the documents that compose it are presented in a consistent, clear and standardized format. They can be used to make both existing and new software open and interoperable. The HL7 standard, the FHIR specifications and the HL7 Finland interface map are maintained in Finland by the HL7 Finland Association.

The HL7 FHIR standard addresses issues such as resource management and REST interfaces, the RIM model, file types, code usage and resource classes, extensibility, and localization. FHIR is designed for use in a variety of contexts, including mobile solutions, social media, cloud computing, EHR-based data sharing, and data exchange between large healthcare providers.

One example of the use of the FHIR standard is the SMART-on-FHIR technology environment. The open SMART-on-FHIR interfaces contribute to the smooth integration of third-party components into patient information systems. SMART-on-FHIR promotes simplicity, developer-friendliness and the use of standards-based components in integration work. It is based on the principle that the open architecture supports modular and interchangeable applications, which can therefore be connected to any compatible patient information system.

Due to the crucial role of integrations, we at Pinja have a dedicated integration unit and the IPa by Pinja integration service.

Strict adherence to the HL7 FHIR standard and specifications is an uncompromising principle, especially for the largest operators in the social, health and welfare sector, and the public sector. However, they also provide a good framework and practical support for other operators, regardless of size and sector, to implement integration.

Everything aims at a seamless user experience

Although the software solutions in the social and welfare sector have very specific and often inflexible frameworks, they all aim at a very positive goal: to build a software package that is as easy to use, clear and reliable as possible for the user. The precise work behind the scenes of the integrators allows nurses, doctors and physiotherapists to focus on what matters the most – their work with patients. Patient information systems and the software built around them are always at the heart of daily work.

The aim of software integration is to bring together information from disparate sources, and provide it to the user as a clear and seamless package. When integrations run smoothly, organizations are free to choose the best solution on the market for each application, without making compromises. A combination of skilled integration professionals and standards ensure that interfaces do not become an obstacle.

Typically, the key factors in choosing an external service provider include

  • solid and wide-ranging integration expertise
  • previous experience in software integration in the social and welfare sector
  • a good understanding of ecosystems, and
  • maintenance services and holistic life cycle management.

As the organization and the number of customers grow, and as special software becomes more diverse, the quantitative need for integrations also often increases. Due to the central importance of integrations, we at Pinja have our own unit specialized in integrations and the IPa by Pinja integration service. With the IPa integration service, new systems can be connected to an already existing entity, existing systems can be integrated to transfer information automatically, and current processes can be made more efficient. With the combination of skilled integration professionals and standards, for example the needs of the Gerica and Hilkka health technology systems will be taken into account with certainty.

In fact, many organizations in the social, health care, and welfare sectors are using an integration service that supports and enhances the long-term development of integrations and software, and at best it forms a long-term partnership.

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Jan-Petteri Hakoluoto

Jan-Petteri Hakoluoto

I work as a Service Manager and Product Owner for the IPA by Pinja product. It is important to me that our processes are constantly refined and that our customers are doing well! In my spare time I like to fish and travel whenever possible.

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