What were you doing in 2006?
That’s when the American Health Information Management Association published an article on interoperability and noted that “Healthcare’s hottest topic finally has two things it has badly needed: plain language and a sense of urgency.”
Ten years later and surely millions of pages of plain talk later, it appears the author’s nod to urgency may have been a bit misplaced. Granted, healthcare interoperability is a complex topic. Just ask the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS).
HIMSS defined interoperability back in 2005 as “the ability of health information systems to work together within and across organizational boundaries in order to advance effective delivery of healthcare for individuals and communities.” That early definition has evolved into one that today includes an emphasis on systems being able to not only exchange information, but actually use the information once it has been exchanged.
Emphasizing usability of the information exchanged is an important distinction. I see it as right in line with the U.S. government’s shift away from focusing solely on how healthcare is delivered and toward what healthcare outcomes are achieved. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology obviously agrees, going so far as to state in the recently released roadmap that interoperability should occur “without special effort on the part of the user.”