Can introducing TOGAF to eHealth produce better systems?

Training provider eHealth & HL7 Education Partners is introducing two new workshops this year on the use of The Open Group Architecture Framework (TOGAF) methodology as it applies to the eHealth sector.

TOGAF aims to apply best practice methodologies to effectively analyse, design and implement information technology solutions. It is used in a number of different industries, but according to eHealth & HL7 Education Partners managing partner Klaus Veil, this is the first time in Australia that TOGAF is being taught specifically for application in healthcare.

Mr Veil, also an adjunct associate professor at the University of Western Sydney, vice-president of the Australasian College of Health Informatics and an expert in eHealth interoperability, said the value of TOGAF was in its ability to apply a rigorous and formal approach to systems design and implementation.

“We’ve been doing education now for the Australasian region in health informatics and eHealth for a couple of years, but last year it became apparent that one area that hasn’t been looked at, education-wise, was a better way of defining new systems and ensuring the expected outcomes,” Mr Veil said.

“It is about applying a better and more formal process to make sure that the results and outcomes and deliverables of the system actually reflect what the users or what the stakeholders originally wanted. This is something which is dear to our hearts in healthcare, because it is particularly important that the desired outcomes are achieved for any new product, project, system or service in healthcare. Ultimately, people's wellbeing, if not lives, are at stake.”

eHealth & HL7 Education Partners will hold two workshops on TOGAF, one an introductory course on using TOGAF in eHealth architectures and applications, which will look at how to effectively use TOGAF to plan, design and implement eHealth solutions with confidence.

The second workshop, Applying Advanced TOGAF Techniques in eHealth, will be led by the former head of interoperability at NEHTA and open distributed systems expert Zoran Milosevic. The workshop will cover how TOGAF can be used for delivering interoperable solutions while taking into account the different operational maturity levels of healthcare organisations.

Dr Milosevic, also a member of HL7 International's architecture review board, described TOGAF as a framework and methodology that has been developed to address the problem of delivering better, quicker and more aligned solutions across various industries.

Dr Milosevic said the framework had been used at NEHTA and within a number of the jurisdictions, including ACT Health, Queensland Health and the Department of Health in Tasmania, to ensure the architectural discipline was used.

He said there were several reasons this was important. “First, you want to make sure that whatever you are delivering reflects business requirements; in this case, it is healthcare stakeholder requirements,” Dr Milosevic said.

“Second, we need to make sure that through discipline and a systematic approach, you bring a repeatable methodology. When you have multiple teams, you need to support team collaboration so that they can all talk in the same language and deliver consistent outcomes. And many eHealth systems, even at the architecture level, are known for producing duplicate solutions. That is very costly.”

Dr Milosevic said TOGAF allowed systems architects to use modelling tools to establish linkages with software development, and then to establish traceability from requirements, via design, to the actual implementation.

“People understand the importance of achieving better outcomes, more predictable outcomes, and in the advanced workshop we teach them how they can tailor TOGAF for their own needs,” he said.

“The good thing about TOGAF is you can tailor it for a particular domain, and that’s what we can do for eHealth.”

Dr Milosevic said while TOGAF was not particularly suited to very small software companies, it was important for those that deal with multiple healthcare stakeholders where there are cross-organisational interactions. It is also useful for preserving investments in information artefacts that have been developed, he said.

“It's also important for maintaining continuity, so in that context, you can use TOGAF for maintaining continuity between what was previous architecture and what should be the future architecture.

“It is a methodology to develop architecture. It can be also used as a way of supporting interoperability, making sure that generates good interoperability outcomes. You can think of TOGAF and interoperability as going hand in hand.”

eHealth & HL7 Education Partners will also be running its workshop series on developing safe healthcare software this year. Mr Veil said it was aimed at software developers, business analysts and software development team managers involved in eHealth software implementations.

“The workshop is about teaching eHealth software developers how to develop safe software with regard to their design decisions and the design policies that they encounter every day,” Mr Veil said.

The workshops will be held in the capital cities throughout the year. See the eHealth & HL7 Education Partners website for more details.

Posted in Australian eHealth

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