Digital HealthInteroperability

Importance of Interoperability in the Digital Era of Healthcare

By Nasim Rezanejad, MD, MS, Physician Solutions Analyst III, The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth)

Interoperability sits behind the scenes making sure that different systems can talk to each other and exchange data. It makes sure all the data rather than sitting in different systems can be brought together and get meaningful data that is linked by the patient. 

Interoperability involves digital health applications that have the ability to communicate with one another by accessing, exchanging and making use of data in a coordinated manner that can actually help save time and lives. 

Multiple applications automatically exchange data and information with each other to enable communication. In order for this to be possible, standards are set. Standards are a set of rules that allow information to be shared in a uniform and consistent manner across any application. 

They are approved and published by an authoritative official organization as the common set of standards.

Interoperability leads to better health outcomes with more accurate information from different stakeholders. Different stakeholders involved in the care of the patient can seamlessly collaborate with each other as data sharing conserves the time and effort of staff.

To ensure interoperability at a large scale between all the systems in an organization, one needs to invest in a component called “Health Information Entity.” This connects multiple applications and allows them to move data between one another using standards bundled together to provide information. 

EHR Interoperability is important since medical devices and technologies are compatible to share, explain and showcase health data in an easily digestible form whenever and wherever a patient’s necessities come.

Therefore, participating in the care delivery of the patient for better decision-making.

Benefits of EHR Interoperability:
  • Portability and accessibility: Allow health information to be accessed and shared by healthcare providers.

  • Collaboration: Health records can be securely shared with patients and other clinicians and healthcare settings to enable coordinated patient care. It allows for better and more timely decision-making, particularly in critical situations.

  • Efficiency and cost savings: Physicians and other medical staff require having the right information at the point of care. If they lack specific information, they will consume more time getting the information.

Sharing results that are coded differently within systems is challenging since translation is required to integrate. While modifying data to a format used by an external translation service, data becomes isolated and important insights can be missed putting patients and clinical facilities at risk.

Therefore, to avoid these problems, the “Integrated View” is applied to intelligently integrating all of a particular system application. Integration engine among different systems which is critical to successfully manage patient care and promote advancements in healthcare. 

To connect digital health applications through integration leads to significant cost scalability and management challenges. 

There is a standard that is used. The standard is an agreed-upon method for correcting systems together. It may pertain to security, data transport, data format or structure, meanings of codes or terms. It is analogous to learning a language. 

Ultimately, it is a product built on consensus to make sure that different systems can talk to each other and exchange data seamlessly.  

Overall, interoperability is about making sure technological processes all work together and come together along with isolated pockets of information coming together for better care.

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