Apr 9, 2024

Why Interoperability Matters

Vikk LindenHead of Product Success
Helena HolmaCEO and Co-Founder

Interoperability is the ability of various systems, devices, or applications to connect and communicate seamlessly, without restrictions. This implies that different technology systems and software applications can exchange data and utilize it - which in healthcare is currently not a given. Interoperable data exchange makes the correct data accessible at the right time to the appropriate people, which enhances healthcare delivery. 

While interoperability and system integrations are technical solutions, their impacts have significant practical implications for patients, clinicians, and the entire healthcare system, because precious time is spent finding or reproducing data, and where there is no time to do that - decisions have to be made without the proper data to back it.

Data Standardization as an enabler

Data standardization is essential to facilitate interoperability. It ensures consistency and facilitates that data can be shared and understood across various systems and platforms at scale. Data standardization also aids data analysis and research, making it easier for healthcare professionals to understand and use the data effectively as well as leading to advancements in medical knowledge and healthcare delivery.

Common Data Standards in Healthcare

There are several standards that have different use cases, meaning they can be used alone or in combination, depending on the purpose.

FHIR (Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources) is a standard for exchanging healthcare information electronically. Developed by Health Level Seven International (HL7), it aims to simplify the implementation and increase the interoperability of healthcare services. FHIR provides a comprehensive framework for representing health-related information in various formats, including clinical, administrative, financial, and infrastructural.

OpenEHR is an open standard specification in health informatics that outlines the management, storage, retrieval, and exchange of health data in Electronic Health Records (EHRs). This standard focuses on health data consistency and interoperability and EHR sharing among different health service providers. It aims to support the development of flexible, interoperable, and patient-centered healthcare information systems.

SNOMED CT (Systematized Nomenclature of Medicine Clinical Terms) is a systematic, computer-processable collection of medical terms in multiple languages. It provides codes, terms, synonyms, and definitions used in clinical documentation and reporting. It's a leading healthcare terminology worldwide and ensures consistent understanding and communication across various healthcare settings and providers.

ICD-11, the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases, is a system of medical coding created by the World Health Organization (WHO) for documenting diagnosis, diseases, signs and symptoms, and social circumstances. It's used globally for morbidity and mortality statistics, health care management, epidemiology, and clinical purposes. This latest revision is more detailed and allows for more specificity and sensitivity in coding diagnoses, leading to more accurate health data and better patient care.

OMOP (The Observational Medical Outcomes Partnership) Standard is a common data model that allows for systematic analysis of diverse observational databases. It provides a standard to transform data from various databases into a common format (data model) and standardize content across different observational databases.

Why interoperability matters

Imagine a situation where every library in a city speaks a different language and uses a unique cataloging system. It would make sharing books or even finding a specific book a challenging task. This is the state of healthcare today, where different systems and applications struggle to communicate and share data effectively - a problem that hampers the delivery of healthcare services.

This is where the concept of interoperability comes into play. Just like a universal language that every library can understand, interoperability allows different healthcare systems, devices and applications to communicate seamlessly. It helps in bridging gaps, making sure that the right data is available to the right people at the right time.

However, achieving this is not possible without standardizing the data - just as standardizing the language and cataloging system would allow libraries to communicate and share resources effectively. Data standardization in healthcare ensures that data is consistent and can be shared and understood across various systems and platforms.

Let's understand this through the lens of the previously mentioned standards:

  1. HL7 FHIR: It's like an inter-library loan system, enabling different healthcare systems to exchange and use data in a standardized format.

  2. OpenEHR: It's the library itself, providing a structured and standardized approach to storing, sharing, and managing healthcare data.

  3. SnomedCT: It's the comprehensive dictionary for healthcare terms, providing a detailed system for representing, sharing, and analyzing healthcare concepts.

  4. ICD-11: It's a detailed catalog for diseases and health conditions, providing a comprehensive coding system for classifying and tracking health-related factors worldwide.

  5. OMOP: It's like the library index, providing a standard framework for classifying and organizing data, enabling seamless data integration, comparison, and analysis.

When building healthtech products, it's crucial to understand the landscape of IT fragmentation in healthcare. Your products should integrate seamlessly into the workflow, and not add to the fragmentation. Depending on your application's use case, different standards might be important, whether for building scalable integrations, research, or data analysis.

In conclusion, interoperability and data standardization can revolutionize healthcare delivery. They promote collaboration and information exchange among different healthcare providers, offering a more comprehensive view of patient health. This can be a gamechanger for both healthcare providers and healthtech developers, leading to advancements in medical knowledge and healthcare delivery.

The benefits of Leyr

Leyr enhances healthcare interoperability by enabling healthtech companies to integrate with Electronic Health Records (EHRs) in a standardized and unified manner. Instead of creating unique integrations for each EHR, companies can integrate once with Leyr's platform and gain access to all necessary EHRs. Regardless of which standard you prefer to use, Leyr can support you.

Leyr also supports the process of coordinating stakeholders, ensuring high information security, and fulfilling legal requirements, all of which are crucial for establishing sustainable integrations.

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