SOAWP Draft Intro

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IHE SOA White Paper

Draft introduction to convey motivation and storyline of white paper

Service-Oriented Architecture, or SOA has emerged as best practice for connecting people to systems and systems to each other, and become common practice for architecting and building IT systems - just not in healthcare IT yet. In healthcare, Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise, or IHE has defined a process that drives the use of existing standards to solve complex healthcare information processes that span multiple, heterogeneous information systems. The goal of IHE is to promote a more integrated healthcare enterprise by providing detailed guidelines for designing and implementing interoperability for healthcare IT systems.

SOA is an architectural approach to designing systems where IT resources are made available participants in the network as independent services that are accessed in a standardized way. The goal of SOA is to create and architecture that organizes IT resources and data in a way that is flexible to the changing needs of the business.

There has been very little written about the topic of IHE as it relates to SOA, or vice versa. This is largely because IHE and SOA are fundamentally orthogonal to each other: SOA is an architectural approach, is geared to issues of scalability, availability, flexibility and extensibility. IHE is focused more tactically on enabling use-case oriented interoperability across heterogeneous systems. SOA provides value via a set of best practice methods, while IHE provides concrete value through its interoperability profiles. Considered together, IHE and SOA can complement each other improve integration and interoperability and deliver benefits of reduced cost, increased agility, and shortened integration cycles.

This paper is intended to inform healthcare IT practitioners and architects about the consideration for applying IHE guidelines in a SOA design. It is organized to address both perspectives: SOA practitioners thinking about implementing one or more IHE profiles, or IHE implementers looking to leverage SOA best practice to drive down costs and increase efficiency in the enterprise. The paper will make frequent use of examples to ensure appropriate focus on the added value to healthcare by combining an IHE and SOA approach.