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.