As a leading not-for-profit, integrated, managed care health care organization, Spectrum Health’s subsidiaries include hospitals, treatment facilities, urgent-care facilities, as well as physician practices that serve the western Michigan area. In healthcare today, uptime is critical and there is an increasing demand for real-time results.
In his presentation at WSO2Con US 2013, Paul Tjapkes, Spectrum Health SOA architect discussed how the company is addressing these and other healthcare industry demands through its service-oriented architecture (SOA). The SOA, which takes advantage of WSO2’s open source middleware stack, has helped to merge Spectrum Health’s internal IT departments and optimize information sharing and security.
A Custom SOA Infrastructure Stack
An SOA training session served as the initial introduction to WSO2 Enterprise Service Bus, Tjapkes recalled: “We brought in because it was easy to put into a virtual machine and on users’ laptops. It worked great in training, so we ended up using it in production.”
Spectrum Health had worked with other ESB products, Tjapkes noted, but some of them required thousands of lines of code and hundreds of files just for a simple proxy to pass through. By contrast, he said that using WSO2 ESB, he and a colleague could create ten lines of configuration and a full proxy with security enabled. Since then, WSO2 ESB has become one of the company’s primary integration points.
Following its success with WSO2 ESB, Spectrum Health has implemented other WSO2 middleware products. WSO2 Governance Registry is used to communicate and manage service deployments across different environments, Tjapkes explained.
The company also uses WSO2 Business Activity Monitor (BAM), said Tjapkes, noting, “It’s important to know who’s doing what. My favorite use case is it gives us capacity planning info. We can see if a service spikes up in usage, so you potentially build out better capabilities there.”
Additionally, Spectrum Health relies on WSO2 Identity Server for its healthcare-focused XACML Policy Decision Point (PDP).
Insights for Success
In his presentation, Tjapkes also reflected on lessons that Spectrum Health learned in building its SOA infrastructure. The most important lesson was following a SOA roadmap to keep goals on track. Tjapkes explained that defining a multi-year plan, understanding the benefits and costs involved, and securing company executive support for the project are crucial for executing an effective roadmap.
“If you don’t have a plan, you’re not going to be happy with the results,” Tjapkes said. At the same time, he said, “Standards are what makes SOAs work, and it’s important to have vendors follow them as well.”
Tjapkes noted that an advantage of the open source community is that it’s founded on standards such as Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP), Web Service Definition Language (WSDL), XML/XSD, WS-Security, Transport Layer Security (TLS), and the X.509 ITU-T standard for a public key infrastructure (PKI) and privilege management infrastructure (PMI). These technologies need to become part of the business.
Tjapkes then highlighted the importance adhering to SOA principles and having a team dedicated to supporting the SOA, explaining that it’s important for the team to organize outside of projects, so that service development doesn’t become project-driven.
Tjapkes concluded, “We’re solving problems in a different way in healthcare than we have been traditionally. Our goal is to give our patients and members a better experience. I recently met with one of the VPs, and she told me we never could’ve accomplished what we did this year without the investment we made in SOA. After doing all the heavy lifting, we can finally focus on innovation.”
For more information about how Spectrum Health created its custom SOA infrastructure solution, see Tjapkes’ WSO2Con 2013 full presentation.