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What is Interoperability?

What is Interoperability?

posted by: Nicole Hovey date: Mar 07, 2019 category: Blog comments: Comments Off on What is Interoperability?

If you’ve seen the term “interoperability” used in the healthcare space, you may wonder what it has to do with your behavioral health practice.

What is Interoperability?

In healthcare information technology (IT), “interoperability” is when different systems, software, or devices can communicate and share information. This lets providers exchange data easily, potentially improving care.

Interoperability may be used synonymously with health information exchange (HIE), a similar idea.

According to the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), there are four types of interoperability:

Foundational interoperability: This involves disparate systems establishing the necessary requirements for one system or application to exchange data with another. This does not necessarily mean that the receiving system can interpret the data.
Structural interoperability: This defines the format standards for data exchange, creating uniform movement of information without altering its clinical or operational purpose. The data exchanged between health IT systems can be interpreted at the data field level.
Semantic interoperability: This involves systems exchanging, interpreting, and using data. Patient information is exchanged among authorized parties in different health IT systems and products, improving healthcare delivery and safety.
Organizational interoperability: This includes the technical, policy, and organizational components of interoperability. This type promotes simple, secure, accurate, and timely data exchange between providers and provider organizations.

History of Health Data Interoperability

Interoperability has gained more attention in recent years, but health data sharing has been a concern since providers first began using computers.

First examples of interoperability

An early example of HIE and interoperability was the community health management information system. This included a centralized data repository with individual-level demographic, clinical, and eligibility information for specifically defined communities. Local agencies and payers used the data for assessment.

Next came the regional health information organization (RHIO). This neutral, third-party organization helps improve healthcare by streamlining data exchange between providers within a geographical area. However, competition between different RHIOs means that this form of HIE did not achieve true interoperability.

Interoperability in the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009

The last few decades saw a rise in U.S. healthcare costs and rapid advancements in health IT. This led to growing interest in interoperability and its inclusion in major healthcare laws.

The Health Information Technology for Economic & Clinical Health (HITECH) Act was part of the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009. HITECH allocated $19 billion for health IT, promoted EHR use, and requires some level of interoperability for EHRs to be eligible for incentive payments.

Medicare’s Promoting Interoperability Programs

In August 2018, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) posted the final rule on the 2019 Medicare Hospital Inpatient Prospective Payment System and Long-Term Acute Care Hospital Prospective Payment System.

The final rule is expected to encourage interoperability. CMS aims to reduce provider burdens and emphasize measures that require the exchange of health information between providers and patients.

Does your EHR promote interoperability?

As interoperability becomes more prominent, behavioral health providers should make it a goal when choosing and integrating their EHR system.

BestNotes offers EHR and CRM solutions tailored specifically for behavioral health and addiction treatment providers, with features that help you collaborate and exchange information with those who need it. Contact us today to learn more!

Stay tuned to the BestNotes blog for future posts unpacking the issue of interoperability!

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