Interoperability-the Next Phase of Healthcare Transformation

by Keith Salzman, MD, MPH, Chair, HIMSS Interoperability & Standards Committee

HIMSS Board of Directors recently approved a working definition of interoperability in health IT.

Per HIMSS Definition of Interoperability:

Interoperability means the ability of health information systems to work together within and across organizational boundaries in order to advance the effective delivery of healthcare for individuals and communities. There are three levels of health information technology interoperability: 1) Foundational; 2) Structural; and 3) Semantic.

With the proliferation of EHRs and health information exchanges, the ability to exchange and use information between healthcare organizations for patient care is critical. Initiatives like Blue Button leverage the focal point of information exchange, the patient, who can share records as they pass through the healthcare system, provided the record is readily available to any provider who will use it as a reference to inform their provision of care. As policy change and business models turn to support value and outcomes, interoperability between organizations will become the norm.

The Commonwell Health Alliance represents a realization of that future and should be fostered and expanded within the private sector among all who have benefitted from the ACA sponsored proliferation of EHRs. The ONC Standards and Interoperability Framework efforts to generate use cases through to implementation guides provides industry tools it can use to achieve interoperability and a process to generate any missing guides. The opportunity for collaboration and forward progress should not be missed.

Looking to the future, integration of information across healthcare organizations will reduce the complexity of information exchange and facilitate the benefits of connecting the dots to improve outcomes for patients in ways that would not be possible otherwise. But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves; moving toward a standard definition of interoperability with integration in mind should help keep us on track.

For more information, see also Dr Doug Fridsma’s blog as he discusses interoperability in HealthIT Buzz.

About Joyce Sensmeier, MS, RN-BC, CPHIMS, FHIMSS, FAAN

Joyce Sensmeier, RN-BC, MS, CPHIMS, FHIMSS, FAAN, is HIMSS Vice President, Informatics.
This entry was posted in Blogging, Health IT, Interoperability & Standards and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Interoperability-the Next Phase of Healthcare Transformation

  1. Joyce: Agreed, however, we must keep in mind patient privacy and safety concerns. I am very concerned that the current implementation of Full Service HISP, i.e., interoperability pathway, opens patient to identify theft, data loss, hacker and cyber terrorist attack. BAA and NPP paper that limits liability of provider and HIT vendor will not make up for the potential security shortfall of the technology. I believe the House Ways and Means Committee, Health Sub-committee should host an open forum on patient privacy and security as soon as possible. Further, I believe (1) that the Conduit approach is the most secure, i.e., it mimics the USPS trust level, and that (2) key management should rest with the end user, i.e., to ensure minimum exposure to key loss or misuse, and (3) if any agency wishes to view PHI they should request a court order. I believe we must protect PHI; we should not open the door to misuse.

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