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What are the Four Levels of Healthcare Interoperability?

January 12, 2022 - Document Management

What are the Four Levels of Healthcare Interoperability?
Rick Zampini

Posted by Rick Zampini

Healthcare consumers demand centralized management and simplified access to their medical and related financial information. As a result, establishing a unified environment for seamless data exchange and efficient document management is a top priority for healthcare organizations.

However, there are many barriers preventing healthcare providers from achieving interoperability, which refers to the ability of two or more computer systems to exchange, communicate and make use of information. Achieving interoperability allows healthcare providers to access, gather, integrate, and share electronic health information quickly and securely to optimize patient processes. A lack of interoperability can affect multiple areas of operations, from revenue to reimbursement to patient satisfaction and provider burnout.

Numerous incompatible software systems with varying data standards, outdated legacy systems, limited financial resources, and persistent data breaches are several of the primary challenges barring seamless and secure health information exchange (HIE). Pre-existing data management challenges were further magnified due to the pandemic. Interoperability struggles combined with rapid changes and new information continue to cause clinicians to miss important COVID-19 information, delay patient treatments, and inadequately document patients’ status.

Let’s review the four levels of healthcare interoperability to provide healthcare organization’s better visibility and comprehension of their document management processes. Proactively evaluating your organization’s information management capabilities will help identify areas of improvement and facilitate future conversations with document management specialists.

Describing the Four Levels of Healthcare Interoperability

The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) Board created a multi-layered framework to help medical personnel assess their data exchange and document management capabilities. There are four levels: foundational, structural, semantic, and organizational.

While reviewing each tier, take the time to evaluate your healthcare organization’s interoperability capabilities. Assessing current capabilities and limitations helps create a clear path to improvement, ensuring the best possible productivity and patient care outcomes.

Blog_Graphic-4-Levels-of-Heathcare-Interoperability1. Foundational

Foundational interoperability, also known as simple transport, develops the building blocks for healthcare data exchange between disparate systems by establishing the integration and compatibility requirements needed to share and receive data. At this level, different software platforms and document management systems (DMS) can securely communicate and receive data from other systems. However, they cannot interpret patient data without human assistance or other technologies.

2. Structural

Structural interoperability, also known as structured transport, defines the structure or format of medical information. The standardization of data allows document management systems to automatically detect and interpret predetermined data fields, preserving the data’s clinical or operational purpose and meaning.

Standards for electronic health information exchange (HIE) such as FHIR and HL7 provide healthcare organizations actionable steps to achieve structural interoperability, ensuring healthcare data exchange remains consistent, centralized, and easy to share between systems.

>> Learn how to save your healthcare organization time and money by automating  manual processes with a document management system.

3. Semantic

Semantic interoperability, also known as semantic transport, is achieved when two or more systems can exchange, interpret, and make use of information. The semantic level leverages data standardization and codification to ensure the exchanging systems have a shared comprehension of the semantic meaning of an individual concept like a particular procedure, diagnosis, or lab result.

4. Organizational

Organizational is the highest degree of interoperability and refers to seamless sharing and interpretation of patient data between various organizations with different goals, regulations, and requirements. To achieve this level of interoperability, additional non-technical considerations such as policy, legal, social, and organizational aspects must be taken into account since multiple stakeholders, organizations, and individuals are involved. Encompassing technical and non-technical considerations enables cooperative use of shared data across and within organizational boundaries.

Advance Your Healthcare Organization’s Interoperability Initiatives with Document Management Services

Healthcare providers need to prioritize their interoperability initiatives to improve patient care and efficiency. Healthcare organizations should partner with an experienced document management service provider to implement an intuitive, scalable, and cohesive content management system (CMS) that reliably stores and shares medical information to enable the seamless, interoperable exchange of patient information.

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Rick Zampini

about the author

Rick Zampini

Rick Zampini is a Regional Sales Director\Production Print Specialist for SymQuest's Document Solutions team. Zampini works with clients to provide efficient solutions to document output related problems specifically in the area of production print, and high capacity printing needs.


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