Interoperability? Not Without Standards

Chuck Parker | Gibson Consultants | June 1, 2013

We constantly hear that healthcare needs interoperability like the ATM or cell phone networks, but what does that really mean? Interoperability is becoming more important as we begin to implement systems in all of healthcare. The goal of the HITECH and ACA legislation was to increase the use of HIT throughout the modes of care. Once implemented, especially at scale, these systems need to easily talk or communicate with each other.

The definition of interoperability is broad – even HIMSS recently had three different levels defined. However, the common idea is that it is plug-and-play, meaning “I don’t have to think about how to connect these devices, systems, or services or go through an elaborate pairing process that may require custom settings.”

Why do we want this? The more difficult an item is to use, the less likely it is to be used. Let’s take the cell phone example. For many years, if you wanted to go from one country to another or use a phone on a different network, you had to buy another phone. When the industry standardized on the GSM chipset, it became easy to allow crossover in network operators by simply changing a small chip, not the whole phone. And, you could go nearly anywhere with the device. This made cell phones easy to use and the market took off.