What Is Interoperability?

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

According to section 4003 of the 21st Century Cures Act, the term “interoperability” refers to health information technology that allows the secure exchange of electronic health information. Interoperability allows for the complete access, transfer, and use of all electronically accessible health information.

Interoperability brings together different information systems, devices, and applications in the care setting. Interoperability is designed to optimize the health of individuals and populations.

According to the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), healthcare interoperability is standards of relevant data shared securely across the care universe. Healthcare interoperability provides connections and integrations across a health system regardless of data origin or ending destination. This health data is then usable and readily available to share without additional intervention by any user.

Improved health outcomes are the primary goal of interoperability. Interoperability is designed to provide seamless access to the correct information needed to address the health of individuals and populations.

Why is interoperability important?

The most important aspect of interoperability is its hope of improving patient outcomes, improving patient safety, and providing caregivers access to clinical patient data no matter the caregiver’s location. Interoperability technology capabilities are designed to improve access to clinical patient data in real-time, allowing health systems to best treat patients at any point within their network – even if the data originates outside of the health system.

While “interoperability” may mean many things to many different people, at its heart, interoperability allows health systems to exchange information and transfer it from one place to another through formalized technology connections.

In healthcare, interoperability brings data from different locations, technologies, specialties, and software for use at the point of patient care.

This data originates from providers, clinics, pharmacies, hospitals, labs, and outpatient facilities. Geography, software, or application does not hinder data collection. In theory, the data is collected, collated, and made uniform for interpretation in the care setting.

What are the benefits of interoperability?

The exchange of information in healthcare is critical for improving care outcomes. Interoperability addresses that need and increases the quality of care. As patients receive care from clinics, caregivers, and health systems, they produce data. Most of the data stays in organizational silos. The entirety of this data is an individual’s medical history, also known as a Patient Health Information (PHI). Interoperability is meant to bring disparate data together through technology integration, and allow caregivers the ability to gain full visibility of a patient’s health history.

Interoperability allows for real-time health results available immediately for any caregiver needing information. This information reduces repetitive tasks like the ordering of multiple tests. Patients, too, gain more control over their health data and are more easily able to track it when needed. Administrative duties for collecting patient’s health data from multiple sources are lessened.

Types of interoperability

“Foundational interoperability” is the basis of information exchange between disparate systems. Foundational interoperability establishes connectivity requirements needed for one system to share data and receive data from another system.

“Structural interoperability” refers to the format of the data exchanged. For example, structural interoperability represents the uniform movement of healthcare data from one system to another: how that data is transferred, preserved, and altered. Structural interoperability provides the structure for technology systems to receive information and interpret it.

“Semantic interoperability” refers not just with the packaging of data (syntax), but the simultaneous transmission of the meaning with the data (semantics). Semantic interoperability means a system exchanges data with unambiguous, uniform meaning. Semantic interoperability is a requirement to enable data exchange between multiple information systems.

“Organizational interoperability” is the technical component that facilitates communication and the use of data by and between organizations and those within it. Organizational interoperability is, essentially, the corporate response to interoperability. These policies enable integration into care processes and workflows designed to support care through shared data across and within organizational boundaries.

Guidelines framing interoperability

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 required healthcare providers to move from paper to electronic health record technologies. The legislation outlined expectations for health information technology (HIT) to electronically exchange data – formally guiding healthcare toward data interoperability. ARRA was the primary force pushing healthcare toward current interoperability standards.

Healthcare bodies are developing standards related to messaging, terminology, documents, frameworks, application, and architectures, both for syntactic interoperability, the structure of communication, and for semantic interoperability.

Some guidelines driving interoperability:

  • HL7 V2.X and HL7 V3 speak to the exchange of demographic, clinical, and administrative data.
  • DICOM defines how to communicate diagnostic images and information.
  • ASC-X12 provides design for exchange procedures, patient eligibility, and benefit payments.
  • IEEE 1073 determines messages to exchange with biomedical instrumentation equipment.

Health terminology and data standards that add the semantic component, vocabularies and codes are in development labeling clinical concepts, including diseases, problem lists, diagnoses, drugs, techniques and procedures, analytical determinations and laboratories, among others.

Some of these are:

  • ICD-10 (International Classification of Diseases) defines a catalog of diagnoses and procedures for statistical purposes, billing, costs, and paperwork.
  • HL7 CDA (Clinical Document Architecture), CCDA (Consolidated CDA) and CCR (Continuity of Care Record) provide standards for documents used to indicate the type of information included in a report. These bodies define a consolidated view of patient summary health information, including allergies, treatment, care plan, and list of current health issues. The purpose is to share information with other healthcare professionals.

Interoperability with TigerConnect

Interoperability is meant to allow for the ability to exchange electronic healthcare information freely, where health data is collected, collated, and delivered through a structured format. The data then can be interpreted and used at the point of care. Interoperability creates a straight path toward creating more efficiency, better exchange of data, and better patient care for all of healthcare.

TigerConnect facilitates healthcare interoperability by connecting disparate systems of record with deep integrations through our healthcare communications platform. Our central messaging system tackles communication barriers and allows organizations to maximize value from their electronic health record system. TigerConnect enables care teams to be much more responsive, even sending an alert directly to a physician’s phone or other communication devices, so they can react to potentially adverse events immediately. Get the most value out of your EHR system and request a demo with our clinical communication and collaboration solution team.

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About TigerConnect

TigerConnect is healthcare’s most widely adopted communication platform – uniquely modernizing care collaboration among doctors, nurses, patients, and care teams. TigerConnect is the only solution that combines a consumer-like user experience for text, video, and voice communication with serious security, privacy, and clinical workflow requirements that today’s healthcare organizations demand. TigerConnect accelerates productivity, reduces costs, and improves patient outcomes.

Trusted by more than 6,000 healthcare organizations, TigerConnect maintains 99.99% verifiable uptime and processes more than 10 million messages each day. To learn more about TigerConnect visit www.tigerconnect.com.