Commercial Emphasis of Interoperability

In a previous article, we discussed how various professional organizations and government entities define interoperability. Industry organizations and commercial vendors typically have their own definitions of interoperability that emphasize the specific goals, operations specifications, and environments of their industry.  Here is how some of the major healthcare information technology (HIT) vendors and healthcare systems stress particular components of interoperability starting with broad definitions and funneling down to more narrow, industry-specific definitions.

GE introduces interoperability with a broad, yet succinct definition: “Interoperability is the sharing of information between medical devices and information systems.”

Athena Health expands on GE’s definition and asserts that: “Interoperability is 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 clinicians, lab, hospital, pharmacy, and patient regardless of the application or application vendor.“

Partners Healthcare Supports this definition by providing some real-life examples in which interoperability would assist in improved patient care:

“Patients often see multiple clinicians, with their medical records scattered across several offices and hospitals .As a result, clinicians are missing information from other practices or institutions in about a quarter of ambulatory visits, forcing them, in the interest of timely and cost-effective care, to substitute educated guesses for objective information. Provider-provider connectivity reduces this fragmentation of care and improves quality. It also improves referral processes by giving clinicians the patient-specific information they need to effectively consult on a case.”

Epic software is one of the most well known and widely used systems in the healthcare industry with a presence in over 900 hospitals and 20,000 clinics. According to their website, Epic refers to interoperability as such:

 “Epic maintains strong support for traditional interfacing within health systems to third party modular systems. These interfaces connect customers to pharmacies, specialty and immunization registries, lab systems, radiology systems, billing systems, etc. Epic interfaces take many forms, ranging from HL7 version 2 and 3 feeds, NCPDP transactions, ANSI X12 transactions, to web services, to public APIs for consumer apps. Today we process over 20+billion data transactions a year through 12,000+ interfaces between Epic and 600+ other vendors’ systems as well as 88 public health agencies, 18 research societies, 51 immunization registries across 46 states, and 17 research registries.”

However, it is perhaps InterSystems that best explains the need for interoperability in today’s digital age and stresses the importance of interoperability in future software and hardware creation. InterSystems definition is as follows:

“With a vision in place, interoperability can go beyond connecting systems and devices to supporting healthcare organizations’ strategic plans.”

In future articles, we will discuss various elements of interoperability as well as identify specifics with regard to the future of the LTPAC industry. In the LTPAC industry, interoperability is needed to collect patient data, interface and connect with ancillary services such as laboratory and radiology, exchange data with specialists and the virtual care team and make it available to users who evaluate, deliver and manage long term and Post acute care.