What is interoperability?

Interoperability in healthcare is the ability of various healthcare information systems to exchange, interpret, and use data cooperatively and cohesively. There are four levels of interoperability:

  • Foundational (level I) Inter-connectivity requirements are established for two systems to communicate and exchange data together
  • Structural (level II) Format, syntax, and organization of data exchange are define
  • Semantic (level III) Data elements and underlying models are standardized — ensuring unified user understanding
  • Organizational (level IV) Governance, policy, social, legal, and organizational considerations facilitate secure and timely communication and data use both internally and externally

Why is interoperability important in healthcare?

Interoperability is a critical step in standardizing electronic health information exchange (HIE) in the U.S. healthcare industry. This ease of patient data access would facilitate greater communication between care providers and, thus, improve care quality for patients throughout the nation.