Whenever a business needs a routine way to transfer information from one source to another, the decision-makers have three basic options. They can have someone copy the information by hand. They can have developers custom-code some software to connect the two systems. Or they can use an integration tool like Cloverleaf or BizTalk. Hand copying quickly becomes unfeasible as the volume of the data increases. Custom integrations can work well, depending on the quality of the work that goes into building them, but they run into trouble with scalability and adaptability.
If you’re in an industry like healthcare, for instance, you likely have to deal with a variety of forms, all of which are apt to change according to the whims of regulators. You likely also have to manage transfers with multiple partners in your network, all of whose needs are subject to frequent changes. This is when a more adaptable and robust integration solution like BizTalk is especially effective.
The beauty of using a tool like BizTalk is that once you’ve used it to integrate one system with another, it’s much easier to bring in some other line of business. BizTalk works by essentially mapping the items on a form so they can be transported into the corresponding fields on other forms. Or it can translate data from one application into a format that can be used by other types of software. With one BizTalk integration already in place, setting up others is a relatively quick and straightforward process—far quicker and far simpler than coding a new connector by hand. Out of the box, BizTalk comes with schemas for over 10,000 industry-standard forms, so a good portion of the work is already done for you.
But when it comes to conveying what exactly integration technologies are capable of, the abstractness of terms like “integration” and “information transfers” gets in the way. So we’ve pulled together some real-world examples of projects the integration team at Aptera has worked on to give you a more concrete sense of the types of challenge the technology addresses.
Logistics and Supply Chain Services
This project began when Dunavant Vice President of Business Analysis and Technology Clifford Tillman reached out to Aptera after learning that BizTalk is one of the areas we specialize in. At the time, Dunavant needed to combine information coming in on email forms with that coming in on tracking forms for ocean freight (EDI 315s) so that it could all be integrated with the company’s own system for tracking trucking shipments. So they had information from three sources, each relying on a different format, and all of it needing to be adapted as it moved from one system to another.
The Indianapolis-based healthcare company that Aptera did this project for processes over a million insurance claims as EDIs a year. When they contacted us, the license for their QNXT Connect system was set to expire, and the IT people decided to look into other options for processing the forms. They said their current system worked well enough, but they wanted to customize the routing of the forms more specifically for their own business rules. With QNXT, this type of customization would have been much more difficult.
For the first part of the project, the company wanted to switch to BizTalk for importing ANSI X12 837 forms from their external partners. But once the routing for EDI 837s was moved onto the platform, the next stage involved updating all the systems built to comply with HIPAA 4010 requirements to follow the new HIPAA 5010 standards. Next it was the routing for EDI 834s, and then for EDI 835s. Aptera’s Integration Specialist Richard Spice says that configuring a process for an outbound claim for the company takes about two hours now that the BizTalk platform is in place—setting up an inbound process only takes about ten minutes.
Aptera helped set up a BizTalk integration for a company that plans international moves for customers who sign up on its website. The system takes in the information from forms the customers fill out online, creates requests for quotes that are then sent to multiple freight carriers. An employee then determines which carrier is offering the lowest rate, and the information about the carrier and the rate is then sent back to the website for the customer to access it there.
One of Aptera’s integration projects actually deals directly with the Healthcare Exchange website set up by the Affordable Care Act. When a customer chooses the plan offered by this company, the Healthcare Exchange website sends an enrollment form (X12 834). The form gets picked up by BizTalk, which then imports it to an administration and management system. The system automatically generates a membership card, and it creates and mails an acknowledgement to the enrollee.
I'm Aptera's Content Strategist. I've been writing about tech and marketing for 5 years and have certifications from HubSpot and The Content Marketing Institute. A big science and literature geek, I taught college rhetoric and composition while I was still busy going to school for way too long, earning bachelor's degrees in anthropology and psychology, along with a master's in British and American literature. Look me up on LinkedIn.