Lessons from Amazon.com for Health Care and Social Service Agencies

Forrester Consulting

Large health care organizations and social service agencies are laden with redundant, uncoordinated, and incorrect data. Service-oriented architecture is an incrementally applied approach to sharing and reusing data throughout an enterprise.

March 2009

Information systems in large health care organizations and social service agencies typically are laden with redundant, uncoordinated, and incorrect data. As a result, consumers must repeatedly provide personal information that staff re-enter into one database, only to find that conflicting information exists in another. Untangling these information snarls are time-consuming and expensive for organizations, and frustrating for consumers.

Service-oriented architecture (SOA) is an approach to integrating software systems to increase efficiency and reduce redundancy and errors. It rests on the notion that common data resources can be systematically shared and reused throughout the enterprise.

SOA has three components that are defined by the organization:

  • A collection of services: processes and data that are frequently used across the enterprise
  • A matching collection of schemas: formats for sharing the information
  • A matching collection of policies: the rules that govern how the information is shared and used

This issue brief describes how SOA works and how it might be applied to health care organizations and social service agencies, which have been slow to tap into this approach to system integration. The SOA architecture of Amazon.com is used to illustrate ways that retail industries eliminate redundancy in providing seamless service to customers.

Rather than recreating whole systems, the SOA approach is incremental. According to authors Eric Brown and Larry Fulton of Forrester Consulting, SOA "steers enterprises to think in terms of small blocks that can be assembled to solve problems, then reassembled to meet changing needs."

The complete issue brief is available under Document Downloads.