Role of EA in Changing an Industry

I was speaking at an event recently and during the follow-up panel discussion, one of the audience members asked an intriguing question.  “What is the role that an enterprise architect can play in helping the healthcare industry implement recently mandated standards for diagnosis codes, electronic transmissions, etc.?”  This reminded me of an effort that I was briefly associated with in the early 1990s in the retail grocery industry called Efficient Consumer Response (ECR) focused on the end-to-end supply chain for the grocery industry.  Essentially, ECR was trying to improve the supply chain from manufacturer to retail shelf, with the ultimate goal being the purchase of an item by a consumer triggers the same item to be produced, delivered and restocked as efficiently as possible.

In both cases, what is required is an EA perspective across the industry – a holistic approach in understanding the business issues and how to optimize the solutions across the entire breadth – rather than each enterprise within the industry optimizing their part of the whole.

Having worked in the healthcare industry on the payer side, and obviously being a consumer of healthcare services, it is easy to see that this is not an easy undertaking for the industry.  On the payer side, you have variety of types and sizes of companies that have a varietyof systems, data standards, and integration methods that need to be standardized.  On the provider side, you have a mix of hospitals of all sizes, along with pharmacies, large and small physician practices, labs, and other specialty suppliers and providers that not only have a similarly varied mix of solutins, but also a wide difference in the sophistication with which they can approach this problem.  Included in the mix are also governments, third party administrators, software companies, and a variety of others I can’t completely identify.

A very complex situation that can benefit tremendously, IMHO, with an EA perspective focused on simplifying the landscape first, and then applying the principles of optimization of the whole over the subcomponents.  Easier said than done, I realize; but it is a logical approach if the industry is looking to standardize so much.