What is Interoperability in Healthcare – 5 Major Benefits of Interoperability

Healthcare records have always been a challenge to retrieve and share in a safe and secure manner.

The complicated nature of these records gives rise to a paradox. They are difficult to share as they contain sensitive information that needs a high level of security, and yet the inability to retrieve them when required can possibly cause significant damage to both the patient and healthcare provider.

As people around the world age and become more prone to chronic disease, the need for data interoperability and sharing is becoming critical for providing effective healthcare services.

In this informative piece, you will learn what is interoperability in healthcare, its importance as well as benefits in the said industry.

What is Interoperability?

While most of you must be familiar with this jargon, for those who don’t know, here is a full description of what interoperability exactly is.

Interoperability is the ability of segregated systems, devices, applications, etc., to communicate with each other in a coordinated manner without requiring any effort from the end user.

Interoperable components have unique functionality, including data retrieval, transmission, and cross-organization association, irrespective of origin or developer. As a result, it helps businesses and large enterprises achieve exceptional efficiency and gives them a more holistic view of data.

What Interoperability in Healthcare is?

To put it simply, interoperability in healthcare helps the healthcare systems to retrieve, share, interpret, integrate and cooperate crucial healthcare data to use different information systems in a coordinated way.

Think of interoperability as a universal language that different systems use to communicate with each other. Without this, healthcare providers would not be able to keep all the important information at their fingertips, and information would be restricted to one system only.

Just as two people who speak two different languages can’t communicate with each other, similarly, different healthcare systems cannot exchange information without a common language, and interoperability works as a translator that helps these systems share information with one another.

What Type of Information Interoperable Systems Exchange?

What Type of Information Interoperable Systems Exchange
Source: globaltrademag.com

Healthcare IT systems adhering to the US Core Data for interoperability standards can exchange a host of useful information via interoperable systems, including patient demographics, smoking status, vital signs, medications, clinical notes, lab results, intolerances, allergies, and so on.

The list increases even further as the data sharing and merging standards improve.

Levels of Interoperability

The HIMSS board developed a multi-layered structure to enable medical professionals to assess their information exchange and data management capabilities. Here are the four levels of interoperability:

  1. Foundational
  2. Structural
  3. Semantic
  4. Organizational

Let’s discuss each in detail.

1. Foundational

As its name suggests, the foundational level helps establish interconnectivity requirements to receive and translate data securely.

2. Structural

The structural level works to define the format and structure of medical information. Finally, data standardization allows document management systems to access and interpret prearranged data fields automatically.

3. Semantic

Semantic interoperability is achieved when segregated systems can finally access, interpret, exchange, and make use of information.

4. Organizational

It is the highest level of interoperability that enables seamless integration of patients’ personal data among various healthcare organizations for different medical purposes. However, to hit this level of interoperability, several other non-technical aspects like legal, social, policy, and organizations must be considered since it involves multiple individuals, organizations, and stakeholders.

Why is Interoperability Important in the Healthcare Industry?

Considering the fact that patients all over the US receive care from different healthcare providers in different healthcare systems, the seamless flow of patient information is critical.

For instance, think of it as a cardiac specialist treating a patient in an ER for a heart attack. Without the patient’s data integration with the local pharmacy, how would he be able to determine the patient’s prescription? If there were no healthcare interoperability, the doctor would resort to asking the patient about his current medications and their dosages. With patients being unconscious, there is a high chance that they would miss out on important information that can significantly affect their treatment.

5 Major Benefits of Interoperability in Healthcare

5 Major Benefits of Interoperability in Healthcare
Source: exansoftware.com

Healthcare data has always been difficult to manage due to lots of privacy concerns. Interoperability resolves that issue by securing the data and sharing it with concerned departments and organizations for the patient’s welfare. But, that’s not all; there are several other benefits of interoperability in healthcare. Below, we have highlighted the top 5 benefits of using it in the healthcare industry.

1. More Comprehensive Care

The need for interoperability has been on the constant rise as people live longer and become more prone to chronic illness. By accessing real-time patient data, interoperability gives healthcare professionals a more holistic view to deliver more comprehensive care, improving the patient’s experience.

2. System Efficiency

Apart from providing quality care to the patients, interoperability improves the overall system efficiency without compromising on quality. For instance, interoperability reduces time-consuming tasks like gathering patients’ information, updating records, and coordinating care plans among the teams.

How does this help both patients and care providers?

With integrated systems, patients don’t have to fill out forms every time they visit a facility to receive care. On the other hand, providers don’t have to enter patient’s detail into the system every time they visit, resulting in higher efficiency in providing services.

3. Cost Efficiency

Another major benefit of interoperability for healthcare providers is cost efficiency. According to statistics, one out of every three dollars spent on healthcare goes on administrative costs. However, with interoperability, healthcare providers don’t have to spend much on administrative costs. It seamlessly shares patient data among insurance companies, labs, and more to streamline care and amplify financial performance.

4. Data Accuracy

Interoperability reduces paperwork and eliminates the need for manual data entry. As a result, there are fewer errors and redundancy in the data. In addition, with digital healthcare records, the service providers save a lot on labor costs for maintaining physical records and space for accommodating them.

5. Data Security

With an increasing number of cyberattacks on healthcare systems, the need for efficient healthcare interoperability is imperative. It stores and shares data with concerned parties in the most secure way possible. Even if the system is attacked, the hacker won’t be able to retrieve the patient’s personal information.


It’s high time that healthcare organizations must start prioritizing interoperability projects to provide their patients with comprehensive care, turn their data into meaningful information and transform into a more lucrative and quality-oriented business model.