Chief Content Officer,
Techstrong Group

Cardinal Health is looking to standardize workflows using a process orchestration platform from Camunda as part of an effort to reduce the cost of health care.

Steven Gregory, director of commercial technologies software for Sonexus Health, an arm of Cardinal Health, a distributor of health care products, this week told attendees at the CamundaCon 2023 conference there is a major opportunity to reduce friction within the health care industry by adopting a highly extensible platform to manage workflows.

Camunda provides a namesake process orchestration platform based on Java that can be programmatically invoked using either low code/no code tools or via an integrated development environment that multiple units of Cardinal Health are employing to create digital processes based on a microservices architecture.

That approach makes it simpler to, for example, create a microservice to automate a task versus having to build another entire application, noted Gregory. “It takes a year to fully understand a monolithic application,” he says. “People can understand how a microservice works in an afternoon.”

Health care workflows today are fairly fragmented, so there is generally a lot of opportunity to increase efficiency, notes Gregory. The challenge is putting an IT architecture in place that is extensible enough to enable organizations to adroitly address new workflows as they continuously emerge, he adds.

Many health care organizations are also now being required to bill based on the outcome achieved, so there’s more pressure to streamline processes, notes Gregory.

The Camunda platform makes it possible to manage business processes at a higher level of abstraction by invoking application programming interfaces (APIs) while continuing to rely on various existing applications to actually execute the required task. That makes it possible to programmatically create an event-driven workflow without having to rip and replace existing applications.

At the core of the Camunda platform is the Zeebe engine that makes use of brokers to manage asynchronous messaging across a distributed computing environment. Each broker has a replica of the same data, so if one should become unavailable another can replace it to ensure high availability. The processes that Zeebe executes are modeled using a set of visual tools based on business process model diagram (BPMD) and decision model notation (DMN) standards.

It’s not clear at what rate the health care industry is embracing digital business transformation, but there’s clearly an opportunity to eliminate paper-based processes. The issue that many health care providers encounter is that physicians, for example, don’t want to have to navigate multiple portals, so there is a tendency to continue to rely on fax systems that would be considered archaic in many other industries, notes Gregory.

Like in most other industry sectors, there’s always going to be a tendency to replicate existing paper-based workflows rather than re-engineering them to take advantage of capabilities that can be uniquely enabled by, for example, a mobile computing device. One way or another, however, health care services are becoming increasingly digitized. The challenge and the opportunity is finding the best way to achieve that goal in a way providers and patients alike can readily embrace.