Healthcare Interoperability

How Healthcare Interoperability offers clear advantages to providers

Technology is ever-evolving, and with that evolution comes an increasing amount of data. Just a decade ago, we first heard the expression Data is the new oil coined by Clive Humby. Data is a resource that is useless if left “unrefined” and becomes potential information when analyzed, valued and shared. In the healthcare industry, data need to be analyzed and understood. The electronic health information increases the ability to store, exchange, process and interpret data. The health information stored in EHR (Electronic Health Record) supports the exchange of information, which make the use of health data and ensure that patients can receive proper care, even if they move from one provider to the next. Health Information exchange for better patient experience and care is the whole idea behind healthcare interoperability.

According to HIMSS, interoperability is about the extent to which systems and devices can exchange health data electronically, so that a user understands the health information and can use it in their treatment and operation decisions. Health information exchange ultimately involves the exchange of all the health-related data, which includes medical records, laboratory results, clinical summaries, medication lists, and much more. Nowadays, Hospitals and clinicians are already doing a great job of using Electronic Health Records to make interoperability more convenient, but still, there are many gaps in the system which need to be filled. So that every doctor and healthcare providers would have access to the required information at the point of care. Lack of certain information at a point of care will need to spend more time on obtaining the information rather than patient care.

This blog will help you get a few important advice on how healthcare interoperability works best for doctors and healthcare providers and how they can implement it for better patient care management.

Stages for implementing interoperability technology

For interoperability, exchange of data needs to be done in a way that it can also be understood by an end-user. So, practically, interoperability is the ability to make unrelated technological systems and diverse organizations work together and exchange data for real-time use. There are three stages of health information technology interoperability that correlate with data-exchange opportunities:

1) Foundational Interoperability: It enables one information system to exchange data with another information system. It is not required that the receiving system posses the ability to interpret the data. The receiving machine can store the document, and the receiving clinician can read the document, however, it cannot further process the information contained within the document on its own. The recipient of the document would need to open it and manually enter the updates to the medication.

2) Structural Interoperability: At an intermediate level, structural interoperability defines the uniform movement of healthcare data from one system to another. This has to do with standards that govern the format of messages being sent from one system to another, that the operational or clinical purpose and meaning of the data are preserved and unaltered in the receiving system. It ensures that the data exchanges between IT systems can be interpreted at the data field level (as in a database of patient records). It requires both the sending and the receiving machine using an accepted data standard. For example – If the patient’s discharge medication list has been transmitted, then the receiving machine will recognize every individual element such as medication name, dosage, frequency, etc. The receiving machine can then populate the appropriate data elements in the patient’s current medication list.

3) Semantic interoperability: It is one of the highest levels of interoperability at this level. In which, two or more systems or elements can exchange and use the data. The receiving IT systems can interpret the data and use it to achieve outcomes such as improved quality, safety, efficiency, and efficacy of healthcare delivery.


What problems interoperability can solve for your practice

  • Identifying Patients: Currently, the biggest problem is, How are patients identified? There is no consistent way of identifying a patient across the healthcare spectrum. With the adoption of interoperability, the time consumption in identifying patients can be reduced and healthcare providers can identify patients by their name, date of birth, and Social Security number(if possible), on their fingertips.
  • Standards for Sending, Receiving and Managing Information Between Health Systems: Currently, it is difficult to simply share information from one EHR software to another. The adoption and use of health data standards by enabling interoperability between different electronic health record systems can connect the whole healthcare spectrum.
  • Measurement, Analysis, and Improvement:you can’t improve what you can’t measure” Therefore, it becomes difficult to quantify costs, error rate, and other issues that are observed when healthcare systems do not communicate in meaningful ways. Interoperability brings in point to point communication within the system. It helps to analyze problem areas and make changes or even monitor how those changes can improve the quality of care and patient outcomes.
  • Information Blocking By Vendors: A lack of shared data in healthcare is a problem. Information blocking — EHR vendor or some of the technology companies charge fees for transmitting data outside the system. Encouraging the interoperability of electronic health records and patient access to health data can discourage information blocking.

What problems interoperability can solve for patients

  • Patient safety: Interoperability enables safer transitions of data. By adopting advanced interoperability, to capture and process data across the systems, healthcare providers can prevent errors due to missing or incomplete patient data.
  • Improves patient experiences and coordination of care: Supporting strong care coordination and teamwork amongst providers is a core aspect of improving the patient experience. It’s hard to feel safe or have a positive experience when multiple providers are taking care of a patient, therefore patient wants their providers to be on the same page during a point of consultation.
  • Cost reduction and higher productivity: Interoperability gives organizations the opportunity to save time on patient encounters by getting the right data to the patient, the provider and affiliate at the right time, every time. So it helps providers to minimize the cost behind collecting, analyzing, and processing data every time for the same patient and hence it directly benefits patients to save time and reduce cost.
  • Patient privacy and security: To fully access data from anywhere around the corner privacy and security are the primary care and regulatory issues to consider. By promoting interoperability patients can better identify users, track their access and more effectively manage access rights.

Why Health Information Exchange is important for interoperability?

In addition to the interoperability of systems and devices, health information exchange (HIE) is another important component of effective Healthcare IT. The HIE has been divided into several categories such as sending, receiving, finding, and integrating. It’s not enough just to send data, it needs to be received, found easily and get integrated into an electronic health record. It is like a chain of activity, if any of the links get missing then the overall healthcare productivity suffers.

HIE is a pivotal step in moving the technological support to exchange data in a manner that preserves the meaning of the data, harmonizes with the clinician’s workflow and increases the patient-centric approach.

Related Article: What is your approach to Interoperability?

EHR adoption and increasing focus on reducing healthcare costs are some of the factors driving the health information exchange market globally. Countries across various regions are focusing on developing a better and safe infrastructure for health information exchange

Different Types of Health Information Exchange Data?

Currently, there are three basic HIE forms used to exchange data

  • Directed Exchange: Sending and receiving information between healthcare providers to support coordinated care.
  • Query Based Exchange: One healthcare provider can request patient-related information from other providers.
  • Consumer Mediated Exchange: Patients can control the use of their health information among different healthcare providers.

Benefits of Health Information Exchange

When technology is evolving constantly and options for exchanging health information are increasing, Here are a few benefits of health information exchange.

  • Minimizes errors: As the data is safely stored in a database and exchanged through a digital channel HIE helps in reducing medical and medication errors.
  • Provides efficiency: HIE saves data in digital format which eliminates the risk of losing any information.
  • Acts as a support tool: HIE system acts as a support tool for healthcare providers offering clinical decision support for better treatment and effective care.
  • Case study: Transformative healthcare network built on open communication and collaboration. It provides the caregiver with clinical decision making support.
  • Improve public health reporting and monitoring: Simplifying the data exchange and process improves health reporting and monitoring.
  • Eliminates Testing, Improve healthcare quality and outcomes: The HIE system can eliminate unnecessary and redundant testing for healthcare providers, thereby improving the quality and outcome of healthcare delivery.
  • Reduce health-related costs: Effective HIE systems can reduce health-related costs as it provides personal patients data digitally.


How HIE needs to serve healthcare providers

Health Information Exchange (HIE) needs to provide a framework for disparate clinical systems to interact with one another. It should provide a community Portal that facilitates a holistic view of a patient’s record captured at various healthcare information systems like ambulatory clinics, hospital systems, and/or updated by patients. It typically serves the following customers:

  • Physicians within a community network
  • Consumers to view and control access to their health record
  • Hospitals and Health Systems to connect with their affiliated physicians
  • Public health Agencies and Registries to view the summary of the patient population.

Where Is interoperability Headed?

In near future, If we manage to bring interoperability as a primary requirement to our healthcare system then, we can expect it to become more consumer-driven, where patients expect more connectivity from EHR to other devices, apps, and other technological tools. We can also expect to see healthcare IT departments bringing in advance tools to make better use of data from multiple sources for greater efficiency and patient outcomes.


In a nutshell, modern healthcare is being driven by information, documents are stored in EHR systems and organized for exchange. Every healthcare facility needs to adopt interoperability to be truly effective. Medical practices using interoperability for them have already proven how beneficial it is to have full data records at their fingertips.

Incorporating technologies into healthcare is also no small task, there are great challenges ahead, so every healthcare provider needs to have a bottom-up approach while selecting their healthcare IT tools. iPatientCare as a digital healthcare software development partner strongly believes in the potential it has to offer for widely solving the problem and challenges faced by healthcare providers to adopt interoperability.

iPatientCare Enterprise Integration Adaptors (EIA) enable you to exploit the real power of EHR interoperability by facilitating standards-based data exchange with other EHR systems, health information exchanges (HIEs), labs, pharmacies, payers, immunization and disease registries, and public health agencies. All these exchanges between healthcare information systems happen accurately and securely within the existing workflow. The EIA enhances the quality of care by delivering timely and accurate information, critical for your patients’ health.


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