'Open' Health IT Architecture

I have had some major issues with IT Architects over the years and the many prolific and useless dissertations they produce that are usually of little real value or practical use to senior IT managers responsible for day-to-day operations.  That does not mean that I don't appreciate the need for a good, practical IT architectural blueprint or roadmap that will help one make better decisions about the technology to acquire and implement to best meet the operational business needs of the organization for the future. What follows is a high level management introduction to 'Open' Health IT Architecture for those who are new to this whole arena.

IT Architecture

A sound IT Architectural roadmap should produce a detailed blueprint for the future that addresses the following areas: business activities and processes; the flow of information; needed data sets; software tools and applications; hardware platforms; telecommunications infrastructure; and other key information technologies that your organization ought to acquire and implement to successfully carry out its mission.

There are several popular architectural processes that have emerged over time such as the TOGAF Framework, DoD Architectural Framework (DODAF), and the Zachman Framework. My favorite, though, is the Medicaid Information Technology Architecture (MITA) Framework. Also, given the intended audience of this article, it's may be the most relevant to healthcare organizations. The MITA Framework provides guidelines for the creation of a roadmap that ought to contain the following key sections:

  • The Business Architecture (BA) section of your IT Architecture roadmap ought to present a collectively agreed upon vision for the future of your business organization, e.g. clinic, hospital.
  • The Information Architecture (IA) section should identify the major types of information systems needed to support the business functions of the organization.
  • The Technical Architecture (TA) section should describe current and planned technical services, their connectivity, and standards that the organization should use when they plan and specify new IT systems to be acquired and implemented.

When you start the process of developing the IT Architectural roadmap for your organization, one ought to start with a vision of what you are trying to accomplish - a list of specific objectives. For example, primary objectives of the IT Architectural process might include:

    Align information requirements with the organization's business plans
    Continually strive to improve overall business and information system effectiveness
    Lower overall system life-cycle costs, while constantly innovating and enhancing systems
    Enable interoperability and data sharing between key internal and external systems

The IT Architecture roadmap you produce should address both the "as is" and "to be" business, information, and technical architectures for your organization. How do you go about doing this?  Read on and see key links here.