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PostgresBuild 2021 Session Highlights: Frank Robben on Electronic Data Exchange

EDB Team1/18/2022
EventsOpen source

In case you missed EDB’s recent global virtual conference, Postgres Build 2021, we’re recapping some of the favorite and most influential sessions from the event. 

Today, we’re diving into EDB CTO Marc Linster’s conversation with Frank Robben, the CEO of Smals. As one of the preeminent proponents of ICT reuse in Europe, Robben has worn many hats over the course of his career—working as a lawyer, a civil servant, and the head of multiple non-profits. With his time at Smals, he has pooled his knowledge and passion to help medical and social security organizations compile, organize, and access vital patient documents—all with the help of EDB Postgres Advanced Server (EPAS)

Over the course of Frank and Marc’s discussion, they cover topics such as:

  • electronic data exchange
  • information management in healthcare and social security
  • the potential of open source solutions in data exchange use cases
  • and more

 

Dedication to data exchange

Surveying his career—and the diverse industries which he’s served—Frank Robben routinely comes back to the importance of data exchange. This makes sense, as a dedication to simplifying and streamlining what can often be a byzantine self-duplicating process is at the heart of Smals’ mission.

Speaking about Smals specifically, Robben emphasizes how critical it is that doctors, pharmacists, and health insurance professionals alike have easy access to patient data, and that, when one needs information from another, they receive the most up-to-date files possible. Building accurate, easy-to-navigate profiles for patients can be a life or death matter, and the frequency with which care providers find themselves with redundant or inaccurate information clogging their systems and waylaying their potential to do their jobs is frustrating, and can border on frightening. The advent of electronic data exchange has certainly made matters easier—turning roughly 800 hard copy files being moved around into 200 digital processes, according to Robben—but ensuring the management and administration of these new systems remains vital to medical organizations.

Of course, the effective handling of electronic data exchange is a crucial issue for industries well beyond medicine. As Robben explains, financial institutions and social security administrations have to constantly be on the lookout for duplicate pieces of data or outdated files. These are not only matters of security, but ones of convenience and organizational reputation. As such, making it easier for interconnected enterprises to swiftly and safely share critical data is paramount for businesses looking to retain customers and users.

 

Smals and open source

Smals has done a lot of great work leveraging open source solutions, such as PostgreSQL in their mission. Take for example, Smals’ eHealth platform, which is utilized by roughly 180,000 healthcare institutions—from doctors to hospitals to pharmacies—across Belgium. Each of these organizations has their own distinct environment, but they’re able to share information securely between one another (including time-stamping and reference directories), re-access, and reuse data as necessary—all thanks to the open source technology supporting the solution. 

Building out these and the range of other features that make Smals’ platform so adaptable and evolving rests on the powerful capabilities of open source solutions, with PostgreSQL being key among them. Alongside a number of legacy components, Smals boasts over 100 PostgreSQL databases. Their decision to use EDB’s EPAS offering specifically came down to a number of reasons, including Oracle compatibility and the breadth of support EDB provided. The deciding factor, however, was that of availability, the importance of which has only been borne out more dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic. Working with healthcare organizations, it’s essential that critical patient information is always accessible, and—as Frank Robben explains—EPAS’ 99.9% PostgreSQL availability made the solution an ideal approach, as opposed to just using PostgreSQL on its own.

 

Smals’ big success

Tackling challenges as labyrinthine as electronic data exchange in industries like healthcare and social security is no easy feat, but Frank Robben and Smals’ dedication has yielded them incredible success, and empowered so many vital organizations. With the help of open source technology and a keen eye for shifting trends among APIs, registry systems, and more, Smals has made a remarkable impact, and we were thrilled to hear about it.

If you want to watch Marc Linster and Frank Robben’s discussion session in full, you can check out his and all PostgresBuild on-demand sessions here!