Interoperability. We’ve been talking about it in healthcare for more than a decade, but as for progress? Well… while there have been advances in some areas, it’s clear we have a long way to go.
Today, the need for interoperability is even greater than it was before. It’s becoming increasingly clear that as new payment models emerge and healthcare shifts towards a population-oriented view, free and timely exchange of data will be critical. Let’s take a look.
HIMSS first defined interoperability in 2005 as “the ability of two or more systems or their components to exchange information and to use the information that has been exchanged.” The organization’s Integration and Interoperability Steering Committee further refined this definition to “the ability of health information systems to work together within and across organizational boundaries in order to advance the effective delivery of healthcare for individuals and communities.”
In 2013, HIMSS discussed the three levels of interoperability:
- Foundational interoperability: Data exchange from one IT system to another. It does not require the receiving IT system to interpret the data.
- Structural interoperability: Uniform movement from one IT system to another such that “the clinical or operational purpose and meaning of the data is preserved and unaltered.” This level of interoperability ensures that data exchanges between systems can be interpreted at the data field level.
- Semantic interoperability: This high level of interoperability is the ability for systems to not only be able to exchange information, but also to be able to use the information that has been exchanged.
It is this last level of interoperability that is least available today, but most needed in the new healthcare landscape.
“Driving Interoperability Forward”
Interoperability was front and center at the New England HIMSS Health IT Advocacy and HIE Day, held earlier this month. At the event, various speakers discussed where we are with interoperability today, and where we need to go so interoperability can support change in the healthcare system.
Here are a few takeaways: