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This week I was invited to give a presentation at the SAP Public Services Info-Day in Vienna. I prepared collecting examples of customers or partners using the platform approach I got in 2007 – some of which we have also already mentioned in Engineering a Business Process Platform for Healthcare Part 5 – How To Provide Value. While I was looking at these cases I figured some recurring patterns which I think are also relevant when identifying the first targets in making enterprise SOA real for a Healthcare provider organization.

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  • New Business Practices
    The Service Portal of the Thoraxklinik Heidelberg, the planning portal of Sacre-Coeur in Montreal, the RFID project of Jena University Hospital etc. – many use the service-oriented platform as a means to support new business practices or naturally extend business processes across organizational boundaries.

  • Higher end user productivity
    The examples I found were Integrated Occupancy Planning with a Business Process Platform Approach with it’s GANTT style UI to manage beds, Widgets in Healthcare – another way of bringing Enterprise Services to the desktop which push relevant information from SAP to the user’s desktop, analytical dashboards or even process cockpits which combine analytical content with the transactional world.

  • Higher efficiency and automatization
    The integration of special purpose service rules and billing engine via WebService or the collaboration portal for oncologists of the Vinzenz Gruppe aim to avoid media breaks and to improve the overall efficiency of processes where typically multiple roles or departments are involved.

  • More flexibility to roll-out applications
    Standards based interfaces can bring down the cost of integration in cases where applications are not highly integrated – SAP Management to 3rd party Clinical applications for example. But we also see much more integration to devices which become ever smarter and have more and more embedded software. And of course it is fascinating to see SAP, ANDROIDS and HEALTHCARE that show the innovation power of service-enabled applications, like the one from Paolo Romano.

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A Roadmap for enterprise SOA 

The conclusion I draw in my speech was that there are sufficient examples how to make good use of the platform to learn from – but that is definitely a challenge for most organizations to create their individual roadmap for enterprise SOA. What’s the reason? Well, despite the fact most people agree on the overall game plan how to overcome the crisis in Healthcare systems we have to acknowledge that every single organization is unique. Some are on a growth path and open up their business to new fields, others need to survive in a more and more competive environment. As a consequence some may start implementing new business processes while others concentrate on improving efficiency first. And of course the starting point is different for every organization. This includes not only financial and personal resources, but also skill sets. And maybe most important the fact whether business and IT strategy are not only formulated and aligned but also well communicated.

So once the starting point is clear, many people (like Stefan Hack and Markus Lindemann in their worth reading book Enterprise SOA Roadmap) see mainly four evolutionary phases in adopting enterprise SOA:

Discover – the potential of enterprise SOA, get acquainted with technology and methodology

Evaluate – the potential individually for your organization based on well defined criteria and aligned to your business goals

Implement – a first productive project, not too small and not too big, but in each case relevant in terms of business benefits

Operate – prove the benefits of the application, think about the generic patterns of the solution and how other areas may benefit from it

An invididual customer example for a SOA roadmap 

In Vienna it was very good for me to hear a concrete example of an individual roadmap presented by the Head of IT of the Vinzenz Gruppe, Dr. Gierlinger. Starting with a first pilot project targeted at improving collaboration of oncologists he laid out his mid-term plan which showed clear steps towards a service-oriented IT landscape, something which Dr. Gierlinger viewed crucial to be prepared for the coming changes in the Austrian Healthcare system. These will basically will mean more collaboration between all stakeholders and more patient-centric service delivery from providers – but also more responsibility for the patients. And the end of this journey he sees a transformed Vinzenz Gruppe contributing to more holistic health management and better life of citizens.

And if it needed another proof of relevance…on my flight back to Frankfurt the headline of the Austrian newspaper Kurier caught my attention. Sorry, it is German only, but it addresses the Top 10 questions Austrians had in regards to the upcoming health reform. The title reads “Health: the deep cut”…

Reading this article I was reassured that our community can contribute to the necessary improvements by sharing experiences and working together to modernize the Healthcare IT landscape.

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