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SulAmérica drives interoperability and improves the use of data with the Cloud Healthcare API

About SulAmérica

SulAmérica provides its 7-million-plus customers with comprehensive healthcare. Aiming to improve people’s lives, it offers round-the-clock support, security, and autonomy for every physical, emotional, and financial health decision. The company has around 4,000 employees.

Industries: Healthcare
Location: Brazil

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With the Cloud Healthcare API, the company managed to centralize and organize medical data, facilitating communication between entities and ensuring an agile decision-making process.

Results

  • Over 5 million requests are handled every day, with zero unavailability in the production environment
  • Processing time to send information to the CRM was reduced from 24 hours to 3.5 minutes
  • Single interface and synthesized data for the company’s internal audience
  • Agility for decision-making, focusing on taking care of policyholders

Improved management and integration of medical information

SulAmérica is a 125-year-old company providing comprehensive healthcare for its 7-million-plus customers through products and services for healthcare, dental care, life insurance, retirement pensions, and investments. The organization has as its mission to improve people’s lives, offering security and autonomy. It has about 4,000 engaged, committed employees and a distribution network with thousands of insurance brokers throughout Brazil.

As a health-management company, SulAmérica needed a unified method to store and sort the clinical data it receives from its partner ecosystem. Each of its partners—including hospitals, physicians, and laboratories—uses their own system to manage their information. These are different languages and terminologies to identify clinical conditions, diagnosis hypotheses, and surgical procedures. As a result, the data reached SulAmérica in a decentralized way, making it harder to achieve a 360-degree view of policyholders.

The lack of formatting in the data the company received and the length of time it took to send that data to its health management (CRM) tool—often over 24 hours—failed to meet the company’s needs.

Therefore, SulAmérica decided to start adapting healthcare information to the FHIR (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources) standard of HL7. This information-exchange protocol for the healthcare industry integrates data from several systems under a shared model. It’s as if it helps the wide variety of data speak the same language.

While looking for alternatives to solve that issue, with the particular goal of making it possible to assess medical data horizontally, SulAmérica found specific Google Cloud services for healthcare in the Cloud Healthcare API tool.

Google Cloud’s API implements the FHIR protocol and operates as a centralization hub for information, thus driving interoperability, as it creates a connection between every system in a single location, with unique intelligence, based on cloud-computing features.

“When we heard about the launch of the Cloud Healthcare API, it was a beacon for our search. We’ve always been drawn to cloud-native apps. In a complex environment such as HL7-FHIR, having the chance to use a managed cloud product as a service helped us make a real difference.”

Wellington Cruz, IT Architecture Manager, SulAmérica

Applying the solution

The project began in 2020, when the Cloud Healthcare API was still in beta, and went operational in April 2021. The time to deploy encompassed meetings, tests, and a joint effort made by SulAmérica’s and Google Cloud’s teams.

Currently, the company uses the interoperability platform as a hub for medical data. It also applied Apigee to integrate data-exchange services with external partners, who go through an authentication and authorization layer before reaching the Cloud Healthcare API.

After persistence, standardized clinical data goes through other Google Cloud solutions. Pub/Sub communicates with Cloud Functions in combination with Cloud Tasks, ensuring control of the transfer rate until the data is sent to the company’s CRM.

One major advantage of using the API is the possibility of exchanging healthcare information under the HL7-FHIR standard between partners in a variety of contexts, virtually in real time and with guaranteed scalability. The process complies with all data privacy and protection guidelines.

“The dataflow platform is organized around events, and that’s important. The Cloud Healthcare API handles those requirements for us, and Google Cloud’s solutions have helped us streamline processes. Based on that, we have begun exploring other cloud tools.”

Reynaldo Pérez Sánchez, IT Architect, SulAmérica

Benefits and ensured data protection

SulAmérica concentrates 5-million-plus requests every day on its interoperability platform. Ever since it began operating, no unavailability times have been registered in the production environment.

Some of the benefits the company has highlighted after using the platform include: agile decision-making, focusing on taking care of policyholders; the single interface and the ability to synthesize the data provided to the company’s internal audience; and the management and integration of medical information.

“The positive impact has reached our internal audience, and the company’s departments have been managing data more efficiently. Now we have the policyholder’s timeline concept, i.e., a timeline of patient clinical data that the physician has access to,” explains Reynaldo Pérez Sánchez, SulAmérica’s IT architect.

Besides a comprehensive view of policyholders, the team gained speed to access data in its CRM. In the past, the time between getting the data in the database and sending it to the CRM could stretch over 24 hours, whereas today the average processing time is 3.5 minutes.

“Knowing policyholder data helps us improve healthcare and engage physicians, as they now have more tools for examinations and diagnoses. This also makes care comprehensive. That’s why we see a lot of potential in Google Cloud’s tools, which provide us with a new approach.”

Rodrigo Costa Ruas, IT Architect, SulAmérica

Regarding security, the Apigee, consent management, and Identity and Access Management (IAM) mix ensures the data stays protected and sets conditions on who can access information, allowing for robust identity management, policy control, and giving the least privilege for every situation.

Another important differentiator in the platform is the encryption of persistent data in the FHIR stores, adding more security layers to the solution. Backup services also enable protection against data loss.

Overall, SulAmérica’s interoperability platform works as a foundation to pave the way for a series of initiatives based on an improved use of data. The company is constantly analyzing the possibility of incorporating other tools. This would increase the use of Google Cloud solutions or lead to new ones being adopted to innovate even further and improve the lives of policyholders.

Tell us your challenge. We're here to help.

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About SulAmérica

SulAmérica provides its 7-million-plus customers with comprehensive healthcare. Aiming to improve people’s lives, it offers round-the-clock support, security, and autonomy for every physical, emotional, and financial health decision. The company has around 4,000 employees.

Industries: Healthcare
Location: Brazil