In the healthcare space, interoperability can be a loaded term, one that can get people to listen like none other.  But what makes it such an issue in healthcare?  I recently came across an article that explored the reasons behind interoperability’s popularity.

Back in April of 2013, the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) Board approved a definition of interoperability in healthcare, defining it as “the ability of different information technology systems and software stethoscopeapplications to communicate, exchange data and use the information that has been exchanged”.  Yet levels of interoperability vary widely, leading to huge hurdles to healthcare teams.  If interoperability is achieved, then it can unlock the potential of real-time, aggregated data and allow for collaborative care while simultaneously enabling mobility.  Yet the disjointed interoperability in many of today’s health systems leaves plenty of potential unfulfilled.  Interoperability is complex, yet so are its associated benefits.

In the end, many healthcare providers agree that interoperability should mean better care and more efficient workflow.  Identity management across the continuum of care is an important part of this; if the right data isn’t paired with the right patient, then outcomes suffer.  But across the world, interoperability standards are in flux.  Today, there are several established interoperability standards, including HL7, DICOM, Direct Project and clinical terminologies that enable the recording and exchange of healthcare information, including ICD and SNOMED-CT.  Since it’s necessary to take advantage of emerging healthcare trends, the race for interoperability has high stakes.

To achieve true interoperability, policies and behaviors, not just standards, need to change.  The current healthcare industry has a major need for connected devices, collaborative health IT solutions, mobility and the ability to successfully leverage shared data.  Health IT industry leaders need to continue to push for support of their C-suites, innovative use of connected technologies and the chance to create vendor-neutral IT solutions resulting in person-centered interoperability.  While you should look to adopt new technology, don’t forget about developing proper infrastructure, policies and procedures so it can flourish.