By now we have gained a more thorough understanding of the concept of interoperability. We have started learning its importance and uses, especially those relevant to the LTPAC industry. However, there are some essential features, or “building blocks” that are required to have a system that not only meets interoperability standards, but is also functional and secure. This article will address the major building blocks of interoperability.
Secure and Reliable Information Management and Delivery
The main component is that the data specifications and standards of a system must support the secure and efficient exchange and synchronization of data. This building block encompasses all of the tools, systems, and processes used by clinicians, users, administrators, and support personnel throughout the life cycle of the data transmission process.
Standardized Vocabulary and Code Sets
All systems and programs must use standardized healthcare vocabularies, terminologies, taxonomies, value sets, and ontologies or “standardized terms to describe clinical problems, procedures and other clinical information coded for easy comprehension” according to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology.
Interoperable systems must meet the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s rigorous criteria for encryption standards and security protocols. According to HealthIT, this also includes the transport of information and data using secure email protocols.
Message Format / Content Structure
The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology stresses that the message format must be specific to the digital environment. This means that during the exchange of information, the message and the information it contains must abide by a certain standard (we will discuss these standards in details in the future).
Data must be transmitted in a secure and reliable format. A truly interoperable system is one in which data is not lost or altered during transmission or exposed to third parties. “The software architecture should minimize inadvertent exposure of health data by keeping all health data encrypted, both at rest on storage systems and in transit across networks,” states the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
Another key principle that is essential to interoperability and quality service are application programming interfaces (APIs). For a system to be truly interoperable it will have to expose APIs to and from almost all of the data elements it manages. The U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality believes that using public APIs and open standards, interfaces, and protocols is one of the core principles of a unifying HIT software architecture.
While these are the essential building blocks of interoperability, many healthcare systems have additional standards specific to their organization as well. Lintech is working to update and create software and systems that meet the highest levels of interoperability and security standards in the LTPAC industry.