January 21, 2021

VUMC successfully implements HealthShare, replacing 30-year-old solution

Many of the projects led by VUMC’s IT teams have significant user impact, such as the recent implementations of SECTRA (new imaging system), Cupid (Epic’s cardiology module), and Radiant (Epic’s radiology module). Several projects, however, are—if performed carefully and correctly—basically invisible to the nearly 30,000 people who work at the Medical Center. The recent decommissioning of the three decade-old generic interface engine (GIE) and its replacement with HealthShare, represents one of these successful projects.

Meticulous planning, thorough testing and incredible dedication from involved team members were all critical elements in retiring the GIE, which served as the “hub” for sharing information back and forth among more than 260 interconnected applications in use at VUMC, including eStar, lab, pharmacy and imaging systems. In all, the GIE supported more than one billion individual data transactions a year, or approximately 2.5 million per day.

Created especially for VUMC by Vanderbilt IT experts, the GIE represented a huge technical accomplishment when it was launched, as it was one of the first of its kind. It lived on a mainframe, meaning it was housed on physical hardware located at VUMC and making in susceptible to threats from natural and manmade disasters. It was carefully maintained over its 30-year history, but its aging infrastructure was difficult to repair. There were a limited number of in-house GIE experts, which created staffing problems in cases of illness or vacation.

The Medical Center made the decision to diligently, over the course of multiple months, convert the interfaces running through the GIE and migrate them to HealthShare, a modern, cloud-based interface solution. With each “batch” of interface conversions, the team gained insights into how to do them better for the next round.

The end result was the complete conversion of 264 interfaces with no disruption to VUMC’s people, processes or operations. In fact, most people had no idea this significant effort took place. According to HealthIT executive director Nimesh Patel, “We essentially ripped out VUMC’s entire nervous system, replaced it, and no one noticed. We consider that an enormous success.”

The GIE was officially turned off in late November 2020, a bittersweet moment for those employees who were there for its genesis. Randy Bates, senior integration engineer, was instrumental in the original design and development of the GIE and widely considered its foremost expert. He summed up his reaction to the GIE’s retirement, “I enjoyed the ride.”