Interfacing Software Systems: Best of Breed or Bad Breeding?

As electronic health records, electronic dental records, and dental imaging software becomes more popular, some practices are looking at a best-of-breed approach. In other words, if their original practice management software vendor doesn’t have a good add-on module, then the practice is open to purchasing electronic records or dental imaging software from another vendor, one who claims they can interface with the present practice management system

That is one way to go presently. However, a practice must be aware of some of the pitfalls with this model. There are specific questions to ask.

One thing to look at is the number of practice management systems that a vendor claims they can interface with. In order to have a successful interface which passes the correct data back and forth between the two systems, there should be a partnership between the companies. It makes sense that the more companies a vendor partners with, the more difficult it is for the vendor to be technically expert at all the systems they interface with. Also, it is harder to keep close partnerships with many vendors.

What happens if your practice management vendor changes the inner workings, even slightly of your present system? How can you be assured that the other vendor will be able to keep the interfaces working smoothly?

Over the past decade, I have run into a number of cases where there was a good partnership between two companies interfacing with each other initially, but then one of the companies decided to produce and market similar software to their partner. The company breaks off the partnership, and after a period of time, doesn’t support the interface further. So, a practice is left with two software vendors and an interface that doesn’t work.

Questions to ask about working with more than one vendor:

  1. How long have the two partners been interfacing with each other?
  2. What agreements do they have regarding their partnership and how does termination work?
  3. What will happen if one or both of the partners changes their software?
  4. If one of the partners creates competing software so that you don’t need the other vendor’s software anymore, how will your data be migrated?
  5. What will each vendor contractually commit to with you to make sure that you are not left in a bad situation should the interface cease to exist or not continue to work as it originally did?

Michael Uretz is a thirty-year healthcare IT veteran and nationally-recognized Electronic Health Records (EHR) and healthcare software expert.