Interoperability 101: What is it and why is it important?

Interoperability has become a hot topic of late, thanks in part to the pandemic and the official start of new rules that went into effect in April pertaining to how healthcare providers must provide health information to patients. In fact, the need for healthcare providers, public health organizations, e-prescribers and others to be able to share data was recognized by National Coordinator for Health IT, Micky Tripathi at the when he declared interoperability as a priority for the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC).

 

So, what's all the fuss about? Here’s a quick rundown. 

 

What is interoperability?

The ONC provides a quite lengthy definition, but to boil it down, interoperability enables health information technology to securely exchange electronic health information with other health information technology without special effort on the part of the user. This ability to share data is dependent on health data exchange architectures, application interfaces and use of standards that provide a common language so that different systems can understand information. There are several different categories of standards to cover vocabulary/terminology, content, data transport, privacy/security and identifiers for patients and providers.

 

Why is interoperability important for occupational and employee health clinics?

As employers take a more prominent role in managing the health of their employees, they need to be able to access and share data in a secure, efficient manner with other parties both outside the enterprise as well as across the enterprise. Interoperability is the catalyst that enables these data exchanges.

 

As an example, an occupational health clinic depends on timely and accurate data from their organization’s HR system to manage pre-employment tests, onboard new employees, track work status and perform other common tasks. Seamless integration between the HR system and the occupational and employee health IT solution helps eliminate data silos and reduces data entry and errors during this exchange. Likewise, interfacing with common email solutions facilitates communication with employees and enables them to schedule clinic visits and exams as well as receive direct links that will connect them to an employee portal where they complete important tasks and view information.

 

In the clinic, integrations between the employee health IT solution and common medical devices mean that when clinicians perform audiograms, respirator fit tests or take an employee’s blood pressure, the results can be automatically recorded in the employee’s chart and alerts triggered when a result is outside normal ranges. Likewise, integrations with Med/RX systems, lab systems and even DICOM/PACS systems ensure physicians and other clinic personnel have the tools and information they need to provide care and share important information with the employee’s other care providers. 

 

Seamless connections with other outside sources, such as OSHA and Healthwise, make it easy to report on worksite illnesses and injuries and to provide education materials to patients. And employer clinics that administer flu or now COVID vaccinations benefit from integration with various state and local immunization registries.

 

Enterprise Health’s interoperability DNA

While many occupational and employee health software solutions are playing catch up to meet the heightened interoperability demands, we developed Enterprise Health to be incredibly interoperable from day one. More than twenty years ago, our founders built one of the nation's first health information exchanges — establishing an electronic network to connect the hospitals, doctors and other healthcare providers in our own backyard. We learned a thing or two about connectivity and its pivotal role in optimizing the way patient care is delivered. As a result, interoperability became part of our organizational DNA, and we designed Enterprise Health so that one engine can interact with just about any data source you can think of.

21-Circle-Arrow-Down

Download a list of interfaces supported by Enterprise Health.