Allscripts Customer Experience (ACE) Conference lights up the conversation on open architecture

At the Allscripts Customer Experience (ACE) conference held in Chicago last week, the big buzz was all about Allscripts’ open architecture approach to healthcare solutions. Allscripts CEO Glen Tullman also talked about it in an article in Health Data Management right before the show began.

“Open architecture is almost a philosophy,” Tullman says in the article.                          

The article notes that Allscripts knows it won’t “figure out every aspect of the integration puzzle,” so they’ll work with major players to make their systems interoperable.

We find this ringing true for almost every customer. We see more and more healthcare organizations choosing a best-of-breed model over a one-suite-fits-all standard. While electronic medical records (EMR) and health information systems (HIS) are crucial to healthcare IT, neither are truly capable of running a healthcare organization on its own.  Healthcare organizations must incorporate and integrate multiple systems to achieve a complete medical record and to run their hospitals efficiently. 

Note that Allscripts isn’t moving to an open source model – releasing a free public version, including source code, that would enable developers outside of Allscripts to create solutions using Allscripts’ code. There are some restrictions on Allscripts’ open philosophy, such as the requirement to join their Developer Program (which includes a fee and signing a non-disclosure agreement) before accessing the Helios by Allscripts™ SDK. Because of these restrictions, some would argue that Allscripts still isn’t as open as it could be. (Check out the comments on this poll from HISTalk to read a little of the back and forth on the open architecture conversation.)

However, the application process isn’t a negative in our eyes. It helps guarantee that the software created with Helios is compliant and secure. As healthcare entities of all sizes are the target of data intrusions and strive to meet HIPAA mandates, this will become ever more important.

And even with a few restrictions, Allscripts’ philosophy is still a significant departure from many other EMR vendors who often try to “go it alone” and don’t play well with other IT solutions. A more open architecture allows IT solutions to find complementary software that enhances existing functionality.

 Just take simple, everyday content like forms, faxes, emails, photos and clinical images. This kind of information is vital to clinical care and revenue cycle processes, but the HIS and EMR systems often don’t handle it well. To manage this information, healthcare organizations are turning to enterprise content management (ECM).

ECM provides the means to capture unstructured content, store it, and make it available as needed to the right people – within the processes and systems they already use, like your EMR or ERP. As a result, processes run more smoothly and crucial information is readily accessible within core information systems.

While ECM systems are integrated with virtually every EMR out there, Allscripts’ open architecture approach allows for a more complete solution that can be more ideally tailored to each healthcare organization’s unique environment. As healthcare IT continues to mature, this interoperability will become more and more important.


Dan West

... read more about: Dan West