Interoperability standards in healthcare refer to the technical specifications, protocols and guidelines that facilitate the exchange and use of electronic health information between different healthcare organizations, systems, and individuals.
These health data interoperability standards enable healthcare providers, patients, and other stakeholders to seamlessly exchange relevant health data and services, regardless of the different systems and technologies they use.
With interoperability services, healthcare providers can access and use a patient’s medical records, test results, and other health information from different sources, enabling them to provide more coordinated, timely and effective care.
Healthcare data interoperability challenges
Several challenges hinder medical device interoperability, including using proprietary and incompatible systems, the need for more standardization in data formats and terminology, and the lack of incentives and policies to promote interoperability.
These challenges can lead to fragmented care, duplicative testing, inefficiencies and patient safety and data privacy concerns. For these reasons, in addition to a growing array of legal mandates, it is essential for all MedTech, Pharma and other sector businesses to closely follow requirements for interoperability in healthcare for every solution they create.
Improving integration: new standards and agencies
Various national and international organizations have developed interoperability standards and initiatives to address these challenges. These standards and initiatives aim to define common frameworks and protocols for the exchange and use of electronic health information and promote their adoption and implementation.
One of the main organizations that develop interoperability standards in healthcare data is Health Level Seven International (HL7). HL7 is a non-profit, ANSI-accredited standards development organization that develops and promotes interoperability standards for the exchange, integration, sharing, and retrieval of electronic health information.
Among its several standards and guidelines, the HL7 Version 2 standard is widely used to exchange clinical and administrative data between healthcare systems. HL7 also created the Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR): a modern, flexible, and extensible standard for exchanging healthcare data using web technologies that has now become common among SaMD and MedTech solutions.
At the national level, The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) is a federal agency that leads the development and implementation of national policies and programs to facilitate the meaningful use of health information technology, including interoperability standards.
The ONC has developed numerous initiatives and programs to support interoperability in healthcare, such as the Nationwide Interoperability Roadmap and the Interoperability Standards Advisory (ISA). ISA is a comprehensive list of interoperability standards and implementation specifications designed to help healthcare organizations enhance integration and modernize legacy devices.
Global healthcare interoperability standards
In addition to national organizations, there are growing global initiatives and organizations promoting interoperability in healthcare. At the top is the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) that develops and publishes international standards for interoperability in healthcare.
The ISO/TS 12967 standard guides healthcare organizations on the use of electronic health records and interoperability. Similarly, ISO/TR 20514 standard targets interoperability frameworks and architectures in healthcare.
The Global Health Interoperability (GHI) program is also a driving force of interoperability in healthcare and a joint collaboration of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).
The GHI program supports the development and implementation of interoperability standards and practices at the global level, focusing on low- and middle-income countries.
Overall, it’s imperative to pay attention to these emerging practices as interoperability grows in importance both from a regulatory and care delivery perspective.
From silos to synergy: start harnessing interoperability now
Interoperability in healthcare is critical for the effective exchange and use of electronic health information, enabling healthcare providers to access and use relevant health data and services to deliver more coordinated care.
The best approach to streamlining your interoperability journey is by working with a healthcare technology consulting partner. They can help you adopt and implement standardized data exchange formats, build interoperability infrastructure, implement EHRs and promote collaboration between healthcare stakeholders.
Discover how to craft patient-centric, evidence-based and interoperable MedTech and digital healthcare solutions by exploring the work of Star consultancy