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BizTalk 2006 HIPAA Accelerator

I have occasionaly had to work on HIPAA related projects. I never had to get very deep in the spec (there always seemed to be others around to do that heavy lifting). Recently I have had time to install the accelerator for BizTalk, and work with it.

First off, the accelerators are a group of software add-ons for BTS that added new functionality for specific markets. SWIFT, HIPAA, HL7, etc.
The HIPAA package adds all of the related schemas from WPC (THE company that builds and maintains the schemas), and an EDI engine that can process the edi formatted messages. This engine runs as a service on Windows Server, and can be configured to watch a FILE drop or an FTP drop for in/out going edi formed HIPAA messages. It will grab the message, validate it, find the appropriate party from BTS, and then convert it to XML and drop it in the message box. The engine will also handle the functional responses often needed in a HIPAA exchange. These message (997, etc.) are responses back to the sender letting them know that you received a valid message. It is a pure functional/technical meaning. The response does not imply any business process (approval, etc).

If you don't need to process the edi format, or need to use a different adapter (perhaps POP3 of HTTP), then you have to build a custom pipeline. The accelerator providers a disassembler/assembler for you to use in the your pipeline.

The install experience is identical to BTS 2006, which is a nice touch. The same screens, options, and workflow. One thing I did notice is that I get an error in the install (they at least warn you about it, but you have to not get 'next crazy' and miss it.) I get this when I just finish installing BizTalk, and then the accelerator. Now, I just reboot between installs, but a stop/start of BizTalk might also fix it.

The documentation is good all around. There are two help files that focus on the HIPAA specs themselves. These are very technical, just a series of formats and layouts. These are good as reference, but not meant for the uninitiated. Tey won't teach you what you need to know about the HIPAA business processes. The actual accelerator documentation is just ok. The BizTalk Server 2006 documentation team really set the bar high (for all of MS's products), and the accelerator falls a little flat in comparison. The BizTalk docs are so good, I wonder if third party books will even be published. The accelerator docs seem to be the old docs with a little polish. Some of it is out right wrong. When you are going through the tutorials there are improper screen references, for example. But the docs are functional.

The real trick is the accelerator doesn't come with sample messages. I really think that the accelerator really should. There should be several variations of each format, with a range of complexity (some messages of the same type can be simple or complex). This would really help in getting POC's or samples put together, as well as proven fodder to use to test your system.

The accelerators did release at the same time at BizTalk Server did, and that is a first. They are usually 30-90 days later than the general availability date. Having them available at GA really makes it easier for customers to be aggresive in adopting the new version of BizTalk. I also hear that the accelerator team actually received RTM approval a few scant hours before the Server team did.

Anyway, check the acceleartors out. They are worth their weight in gold! Not having to build the complex schemas and test them by hand is a huge timesaver. It would take months to get them where they would need to be. These schemas can be simple on the surface, and very difficult to test and ensure they are accurate to the standards, down deep. By using the 'official' schemas, you save a lot of time, and can have a lot of trust that you won't have interoperability issues down the road.


Eric Stott said...
3/18/2007 04:00:00 PM  

Nice article! Hope to see more.

Casper said...
9/25/2007 09:21:00 PM  

Well written, i am planning an install myself. I most likely will be back with questions :)

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