What is Interoperability in Healthcare?

The BTC Team

As early as 1965, electronic health records were used to store and retrieve medical documents and other clinical information. Over the years, most healthcare providers have switched from paper to electronic health records, allowing the concept of interoperability to advance and grow.

In 2009, this was further reinforced when the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was passed, allocating $19.2 billion for health information technology to help hospitals and physicians’ offices implement the use of electronic health records in their day to day operations. As a result, healthcare organizations can now access and utilize various healthcare information applications to exchange, interpret, and use data cohesively through interoperability. But, what does this growth in interoperability of data mean for your healthcare organization? And what are the benefits of incorporating interoperability processes and solutions? Keep reading below to find out!

How does interoperability play a role in Healthcare?

Health data exchange architectures, application interfaces, and standards enable data to be accessed within and across organizational, regional, and national boundaries to provide seamless portability of information to optimize the health of as many populations as possible globally.

According to an article by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), four interoperability levels are currently referred to within healthcare organizations. These levels include:

Foundational (Level 1):

Establishes the inter-connectivity requirements needed for one system or application to communicate data securely

Structural (Level 2):

Defines the format, syntax, and organization of data exchange, including at the data field level for interpretation

Semantic (Level 3):

Provides for standard underlying models and codification of the data, including the use of data elements with standardized definitions from publicly available value sets and coding vocabularies, providing shared understanding and meaning to the user

Organizational (Level 4):

Includes governance, policy, social, legal, and administrative considerations to facilitate the secure, seamless and timely communication and use of data both within and between organizations, entities, and individuals. These components enable-shared consent, trust, and integrated end-user processes and workflows.

What is Health Information Exchange?

As mentioned above, interoperability is dependent on the exchange of information and data sharing. In this case, “Health Information Exchange” allows clinical information to be moved electronically to different healthcare information systems. This facilitates access to clinical data to provide safe, efficient, effective, and equitable patient-centered care. It can also be used by public health authorities to assist in analyzing the health of populations.

What are some of the ways interoperability improves Healthcare?

Improved patient care

Patients often do administrative tasks like searching for documents, filling out multiple forms, re-explaining their symptoms or medical history, and sorting out insurance. Using interoperability to streamline this process can help healthcare facilities give patients faster, more accurate, and coordinated treatment to enhance their overall experience.

Increased patient safety

According to a study conducted by Johns Hopkins, 44 percent of medical error deaths are preventable. By planning and implementing advanced interoperability processes, your organization can capture and interpret data across systems and applications, preventing errors resulting from missing or incomplete patient data.

Stronger privacy and security for patients

Interoperability can help enhance patient data privacy and security by requiring organizations to fully assess how their private health information is being used and shared. By analyzing how this information is entered into a secure, interoperable system, organizations can better understand where this data is located and who has access to it, helping them secure patient data and protect privacy.

Reduced healthcare costs

According to an estimate from the West Health Institute (WHI), system interoperability could save the U.S. healthcare system more than $30 billion a year. It can also improve care and hospital safety. As a result, interoperability allows organizations to save time with every patient by getting the right data to them, the physicians and caregivers, and the affiliate at the right time, every time.

So, how can BTC play a role in this process?

With demonstrable experience working with healthcare organizations to implement interoperability solutions, Boston Technology Corporation can work with your organization to ensure its interoperability processes are efficient, secure, and working optimally. To see how BTC can help you achieve this, click here to learn more.


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