Interoperability – The Must Have in Today’s HealthCare IT
We just returned from the HIMSS18 World Conference where 47,000 health IT professionals, clinicians, executives and vendors gathered from around the world to share their latest business challenges, solutions, and future plans for continuing to improve patient health services.
The Conference’s Exhibition/Showcase featured over 1300 Health IT vendors and almost all of the vendors displayed banners or distributed materials touting their ability for Interoperability.
In 2013, the HIMSS Board agreed on the definition of Interoperability as: “The ability of different information technology systems and software applications to communicate, exchange data, and use the information that has been exchanged. Data exchange schema and standards should permit data to be shared across clinician, lab, hospital, pharmacy, and patient regardless of the application or application vendor.”
No longer is the entry of redundant data into multiple systems either safe, cost-effective or acceptable. One system/application becomes the “Source of Truth” for each data element and all other systems utilize interface and other integration processes to populate their own databases with this shared data.
So just how is this information shared between software applications? In short, it’s all about agreeing on a standard format to share the data. For years now, HL7 (Health Level Seven) has been the primary organization dedicated to defining standard formatting and protocols which allow for the data to flow between systems. As technology continues to evolve, so do the standards and protocols. Today, many software vendors are in the process of converting their applications to transition from the widely accepted Version 2 standard to the most recent FHIR (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources) standard.
Though much of the basic health data is included in the HL7 standard, there is still much more that needs to be passed back and forth between best of breed systems. When no specific HL7 standard exists, software vendors develop their own API (Application Programming Interface). This is the custom format, standards and application developed using their API. When customers want to purchase applications from different vendors that require this “interoperability”, the individual companies arm-wrestle each other to decide which company will develop the application to have both systems exchange their data. This is always an ongoing negotiation between software vendors.
As you evaluate purchasing new software applications, make sure you ask about the vendor’s current and future “interoperability” features and options.
Article by: Steve Conner - Vice President - Product Management; Fusion, 2nd Quarter, 2018