eHealth interoperability means the ability of two or more eHealth systems to use and exchange both computer interpretable data and human understandable information and knowledge.
There are three levels of Interoperability
1. Organisational Interoperability also referred to as legal, process or co-operability interoperability - refers to the broader environment of laws, policies, procedures and bilateral cooperation needed to allow the seamless exchange of information between different organisations, regions and countries.
2. Semanctic Interoperability refers to the ability to ensure that the precise meaning of exchanged information is interpretable by any other system or application not initially developed for this purpose.
3. Technical Interoperability means the ability of two or more ICT applications, to accept data from each other and perform a given task in an appropriate and satisfactory manner without the need for extra operator intervention.
In June 2016, COCIR published the new paper Why Interoperability is Critical to Support Integrated Care in Europe?
In May 2017, COCIR - IHE - PCHAlliance published the joint paper We Are All In This Together: Advancing eHealth Interoperability.
This paper provides health policy makers with the tools to build a productive partnership with their IT teams to jointly develop a successful integrated care model. It will also help develop a common understanding of the digital health approach to support that model.
Nicole Denjoy, COCIR Secretary General is the Issue Leader of the report on "Perspectives and recommendations on Interoperability", published by the eHealth Stakeholder Group, a European Commission advisory body.
This multistakeholder report published on the European Commission website includes a set of recommendations to the attention of EU Member States and EU institutions.This report contains an overview of the most used standards in eHealth throughout the EU, as well as a list of all EU funded projects dealing with interoperability in eHealth. Set of recommendations given include, for example, that efforts towards interoperability in healthcare focus on a set of priority use cases, like patient summaries (i.e. basic health records) or ePrescription, to ensure systems "talk to each other" where it's mostly needed.
1. EASIER AND FASTER ACCESS TO PATIENTS’ INFORMATION
With interoperable systems, data can be exchanged and stored automatically rather than re-typed into the system each time. This applies to all kinds of data used in healthcare: laboratory results, therapeutic procedures, medication administration, clinical notes, billing etc.
This leads to:
2. BETTER DIAGNOSIS, BETTER QUALITY OF TREATMENT, BETTER PATIENT SAFETY
Giving medical professionals faster access to patients’ data allows better diagnosis, better quality treatment, and better patient safety through:
3. IMPROVED COST EFFICIENCY
Interoperability between systems reduces administrative costs through a reduction in manual data capture, duplicate efforts and in the workload for both clinical and administrative staff (as described in point 1 above).
Systems built on the same data exchange standards and using open access technologies are easier to integrate, reducing the implementation costs of new IT solutions in hospitals. It reduces the adaptation time of the solution to the hospital’s existing IT infrastructure and less maintenance/technical support from the vendor
4. INCREASED CONSUMER CHOICE AND ENHANCED COMPETITION
Interoperability between vendors and systems enhances the choice for consumers. If the solutions are interoperable, customers have more choice in buying what they need, while at the same time providers and vendors can introduce their products to more markets. Interoperability also opens the market for new entrants, increasing competition and innovation.
5. MORE END TO END SECURITY FOR DATA TRANSFERS
The exchange of patient data electronically requires privacy risks (identity theft, intrusion, alteration of data, and unauthorised access) to be addressed. Truly end to end interoperable IT systems with embedded privacy design reduce these risks through compatible security models, identification and authentication processes, data encryption etc.