The tools that we often have at our disposal are the communications specifications of HL7 and X12, but many integration engineers or health informatics managers might be surprised to learn that interfaces (what we usually term HL7 and X12) are not the only tools available to us.Epic has an unfair reputation of not being interoperable. File extracts, imports, and web services are all potential options for getting healthcare data out and potentially even getting data into an EMR without resorting to an interface. These options also offer flexibility when the systems you are trying to communicate with do not support traditional interfaces (HL7 or X12) and you need a way to communicate with the system without doing manual transcription.
Since close to the start of modern computing, we have been extracting and importing data. Many people will be surprised to hear, at least on the clinical side, that Epic supports these tools. Extracts in Epic are pretty easy to implement and can be a very powerful tool if used properly. They are implemented like every other analytical report and can use the same host of tools that Epic provides for those reports. Extracts can be built using some of the same tools that are used for some of the other population management tools.
Imports are a different matter. Importing data requires that Epic support the loading of the data into Epic’s database. You will need to talk to Epic about what data you want to load and where it will go. If you have programmers on staff, they might be able to modify your files to meet Epic’s import specifications; but otherwise you will need to make sure that the files represent Epic’s imports. One other potential option is to use an incoming interface, and use Epic’s ability to modify files and turn the file into HL7 messages. This is always an option, but can come with some complications including cost and where the data will be imported. You should always make sure and talk with your Epic EDI representative before using this technology.