Composable Architecture: The Perspective of HealthEdge’s Chief Technology Officers
Have you ever had the unfortunate experience of stepping barefoot on a LEGO®? If you have, your first thought was probably something like AHHH! Not, ‘Wow! What a superb example of a composable architecture building block – with perfectly standardized bricks and studs jabbing me in the foot!’
Wait, why are we talking about LEGO in our technology blog? Well, we recently sat down with the CTOs of our products – Matt Kuntz, Dan Vnuk, & Amlan Dasgupta – to talk about composable architecture. Interestingly, our chat took a turn toward LEGO and Michelangelo’s David.
Why is composable architecture important?
Imagine building the Millennium Falcon out of LEGO versus found materials. The LEGO set comes with perfectly standardized bricks that seamlessly fit together. It’s a breeze to snap the pieces together and in a couple hours your finished product looks exactly like the picture on the box. The ‘found materials’ option is going to take a lot longer and have a less definitive outcome.
If you put yourself in the shoes of the CIO at a health plan – they are responsible for creating an effective tech stack ecosystem. Picture this ecosystem as the Millennium Falcon that needs to be built brick by brick. This ecosystem needs to support their growing business needs while also being easy to maintain. They need to bring solutions built by different companies together and create a seamless, end-to-end workflow. Each element needs to be sewn together, requiring solutions that are interoperable, easily updated, and agile. Composable architecture makes this possible.
Payer solutions leveraging composable architecture have a whole host of benefits that enable superior business outcomes including:
- Increased speed to value
- Implementation ease
- Clearly defined interfaces
- Flexibility to improve functionality
- Adaptability to changing business needs
- Loosely coupled systems for seamless upgrades
- Clear channels of ownership and accountability
What are the challenges of composable architecture?
Composable architecture is great – but there are some significant outcomes if you don’t get it right:
- Lack of transparency – When different systems are cobbled together, there’s a risk of losing transparency. A solution with a successful composable architecture should enable data sharing that increases transparency. Data transparency is important as it enables users to work with data no matter what application or component created it.
- Integrated but not optimized – Picture two systems that work together but weren’t specifically designed to work together. Meaning that yes, the system functions BUT it’s missing out on a world of opportunity to elevate the whole experience with things like data sharing, transparency, and more.
Composable architecture & HealthEdge
At HealthEdge, we are working to build the composable building blocks that enable the end-to-end ecosystem for Payors. Each standalone product, HealthRules Payor®, GuidingCare, and Source, can easily integrate into the various components of a payer’s ecosystem, including each other to create a next-generation integrated solution suite. For example, HealthRules Payor is a core claims admin system with hundreds of applications integrating through APIs – hundreds of applications that are constantly evolving and improving. Our products must be able to grow and evolve with these businesses and applications – we must be able to deliver the best technology, implement it efficiently, keep it running, and continuously update to new functionality. Without composable architecture we’d have a tangled mess of custom code.
When you build composable payer products, you can configure functionality and connections that allow flexibility and confidence in the products. Otherwise, chaos breaks loose during upgrades and things don't work. You end up configuring whole parts of the workflows with custom workarounds that are difficult to maintain.
As you think about composable architecture and what it means to you and your ecosystem, consider the following:
- Integration capabilities
- Ease of implementation
- Ability to deploy
- Speed of upgrades
- Adaptability to changing needs
LEGO – The composable architecture archetype
Humble, but mighty, these versatile blocks are standardized, have clearly defined integration points, and are infinitely stackable. A veritable ideal example of composable architecture.
You can go to the store and buy thousands of standard Lego blocks. If you are really good, in a few days you can put together something that looks roughly like the Millennium Falcon. It will be blocky, and the color will be off, but everyone will recognize the Millennium Falcon. If you go buy a Millennium Falcon set, all the pieces will be the right color, and there will be lots of custom pieces for things like gun turrets and there will be detailed instructions for how to put it together. It will only take you a few hours, and when you are done, it will really look like the Millennium Falcon. The pieces are still Legos, and you can still attach any other Lego pieces to build something custom, but if what you want is the Millennium Falcon, you will get a better Millennium Falcon than you could get from standard Legos.
The thing with LEGO is that even a stunning compilation of their bricks pales in comparison to Michelangelo’s exquisitely formed David. LEGO, while a wonderful example of composable architecture, is inherently limited by its form. No matter how you put the pieces together, the result will always be a compilation of LEGO.
The Future – Transforming LEGO into masterpieces
The vision our CTOs share of our future technology is to create something so much more than interchangeable blocks. They are on a mission to create individual best-in-class products that integrate and deliver an unmatched experience – while also providing interfaces and building blocks that can easily integrate with non-HealthEdge products. Picture systems linking together and not only seamlessly integrating but having a deep understanding of how the other one works and building on it – creating a sum that is far greater than the parts.
‘Our vision is to develop our suite of products in a way that they do things that no other set of products could. Not by blocking off the APIs. We'll be open. We'll be opening our APIs and allowing anybody to integrate, but by designing the products to work well together, we'll have a set of products that work together better than anybody else's products.’ – Matt Kuntz, CTO, HealthRules Payor, HealthEdge
We’re excited for that future.
About the Authors
Amlan Dasgupta, CTO & SVP of Product Development at Burgess
Amlan holds a master's degree from Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University and graduated with a bachelor's degree from Indian Institute of Technology, Madras.
Dan Vnuk, Chief Technology Officer, Altruista Health
Dan holds a master's degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of New Mexico and graduated with a bachelor's degree in Physics from Gustavus Adolphus College.
Matt Kuntz, Chief Technology Officer, HealthEdge
Matt holds a Ph.D. in Physics from Cornell University and graduated Summa Cum Laude in Physics from Amherst College.