In Healthcare Technology terms, interoperability is when multiple devices, databases and programmes are able to interact across organizational and systemic boundaries. This allows different technologies and resources to communicate, interact, and react according to information received, without human intervention being necessary. The product of these interactions is then able to be shared to clinicians, nurses, pharmacists and vendors.
3 Types of Interoperability
The Health Information and Management Systems Society(HIMSS) identifies 3 types of interoperability for healthcare:
Foundational Interoperability - this refers to situations where data is exchanged between many different Health IT systems, without the systems necessarily being able to interpret data
Structural Interoperability - a step above foundational, structural interoperability denotes systems that also possess the ability to interpret each others data, moved in a uniform way to prevent any alteration to the outcome of the data
Semantic Interoperability - the top-tier, this allows data and information to be moved, interpreted, and ACTED upon. Information is shared across multiple systems and programmes without losing data fields, allowing it to be interpreted, and utilized to improve the quality, safety and accuracy of patient care.
Why is Interoperability important for Healthcare?
Unlike personal banking, or email, Health Records are not easily accessible from anywhere in the world. Moreover, many patients will change hands of GPs, hospitals and care providers over the course of their lifetime, meaning information can be scattered, dated, or simply lost in translation.Through the development of Semantic Interoperability in Healthcare, records, data and medical histories can be intepreted across systems, preventing costly electronic records, wasted information, and encouraging seamless communication between organizations. In turn, this creates a higher quality of treatment for the patient, and ease of access for the providers.