The idea of interoperability in healthcare IT services can be deceptively simple. From a simple viewpoint, interoperability means ensuring multiple systems can securely talk with each other, sharing information without creating problems.
A more painful problem, though, is that such interoperation is rarely easy to implement. Many organizations turn to healthcare IT consulting firms to handle this work, and here are four things they will tell you that interoperability entails.
Most organizations need to share data for a variety of reasons. A specialist might need to send reports from blood work to a general practitioner, for example. The accounting department at a hospital might need to share data with the government and insurers. Even patients may need to access data using phones, tablets, laptops, or desktops.
Such information-sharing processes are far from monolithic. Interoperability issues start at the level of the operating system and work their way up. To successfully share data, you have to be able to transmit it without problems and verify receipt. Likewise, the recipient has to be able to access and read the data.
The idea of sharing data implies the need for security, especially when dealing with healthcare IT services. If one software package at a hospital has to answer queries from nearby medical practices, for example, you want that to be as secure as possible. Otherwise, a hostile party might gain access to patient records, billing data, or even payment card information.
You'll want to have a system that is secured end-to-end. Within the scope of interoperability, that often means creating protocols that will work across hardware and software ecosystems that frequently don't have much in common.
Within the healthcare IT services world, few issues loom as large as compliance. You need to be able to prove that your interoperability measures comply with major standards, with HIPAA being the biggest. If you process credit card payments, you'll have to comply with payment card industry standards, too. There may also be state and local standards, and many organizations have their own standards.
Ultimately, healthcare IT consulting firms don't want to build massive bespoke solutions if they can avoid doing so. The solution to handling the combined problems of data sharing, security, and compliance usually ends up being standardization. Ideally, your branch already has standards in place. If not, you may need to find a way to standardize input from outside systems without compromising on the previously listed items.