Enterprise Architecture Can Be Applied to Practices

Sometimes complex communication in a large practice mimics the Tower of Babel. When that happens, a solution may be adopting some enterprise architecture (EA) strategies of hospitals.

EA is strategic business planning used by an organization to uniformly align business and IT goals across the entire organization. It includes all aspects of implementing a technical strategy to reach a set goal typically related to new technology. Scaled down and adapted to the mid-sized or large physician group or practice, EA can prove a valuable tool during the chaos of implementation.

The process is often used to maximize the return of an investment and prevent waste within larger health care organizations such as hospitals, but is also an excellent tool for practice management. EA—required by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) across all federal agencies—considers:

  •  Business Goals
  •  Business Processes
  • IT Hardware
  • Software Applications
  • Data Management

The process of EA requires goal setting and project planning. It often incorporates the use of technical roadmaps, reference models, design patterns and blueprints, and change management systems. It is used by health care organizations migrating away from one or more systems to meet new goals or adopt newer technologies. Many large health care organizations have outdated “legacy systems” that are the result of the evolution of their business (e.g., technology added over many years, company mergers, etc.). EA is used to connect systems, primarily through interfaces, to achieve system interoperability. EA often is used to consider:

Business Practices

  • Provision of Services
  • Operational Management
  • Billing and Other Business Management
  • Workflow
  • Human Factors (eg, training and certification)
  • Compliance

Technical Standards

  • XML
  • ANSI X.12
  • Health Level 7 (most popular in medical clinics)


  • Data Repositories
  • Security Mechanisms
  • Infrastructure Services
  • Applications

The goal is to enable the organization’s disparate software to communicate by using phases requiring dual systems, implement bridges to connect systems, or decide to replace systems altogether. Whichever process is defined by the EA, the ability to communicate across an organization provides timely access to accurate clinical, financial, and related information needed for operations. This allows practices and other health care systems to improve the quality and efficiency of the care they provide. It also allows them to more easily interact with outside entities, such as a Health Information Exchanges (HIE) or Affordable Care Organizations (ACOs).

There are different frameworks, methods, techniques, and tools used to achieve EA. The majority of large health care enterprises utilize the HL7 standards for communication of data between internal applications and other facilities. Whichever EA is used, the goal is to provide a comprehensive framework to manage and align an organization’s Information Technology (IT) assets, people, operations and projects with its operational characteristics. EA defines how information and technology will support the business operations and provide benefit for the business.


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