Interoperability describes how effectively clinical data can move between different participants, both human and technological, in the care delivery chain. The dissemination of and access to data is contingent upon standards that must be met by the recipient of the data. Interoperability is important to ensure that information, such as drug allergies, can be delivered to the right place, at the right time.

Interoperability impacts various levels of patient care. Patients, clinicians and electronic health record (EHR) vendors are essential to the success of interoperability in health care. The inability of inpatient and outpatient EHR systems to communicate inhibits the exchange of patient data. Clinicians are frustrated when accessing patient data in multiple systems as they must switch between systems, which affects the length of a patient visit and diminishes face-to-face time between providers and patients. EHR vendors’ ability to transfer data across systems is imperative for interoperability to occur.

Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise (IHE), a unique collaboration of health care professionals and industry focused on improving the way computer systems in health care share information, helps health systems drive interoperability value by coordinating the use of established standards for specific clinical needs.

Benefits of IHE

  • Private Practice Benefits: As a referring physician, access to imaging studies and final reports can help steer clinical decision making more effectively. This can also limit repeated studies which save money and decrease the exposure to radiation, which improves health care quality. IHE can help solve this problem through implementation of profiles that increase data flow communication between priv ate practice electronic medical records (EMR) and facilities that perform diagnostic testing. Saving your patients time, money, and aggravation from repeated testing.
  • Health System Benefits: The complexity of many facilities – with hundreds of pieces of equipment, thousands of patients and millions of encounters – makes managing the sheer volume of clinical data a challenge. IHE provides templates that can be used as standardized tools to build starting points for optimizing workflows in a uniform way.
  • Community Hospital Benefits: As the number of clinical facilities within a geographical area increase, the high likelihood that clinical data will change hands requires enhanced cooperation between groups. IHE provides leadership for any size catchment area by offering tools and procedures that are vendor-neutral. These solutions are built on an open-source model that allows for wide distribution and implementation in diverse care delivery settings.

Interoperability Tools for Cardiology Departments

These documents and templates were developed through voluntary collaboration between device vendors, medical societies, and clinical facilities. Each tool is freely available for use and implementation within any healthcare enterprise, and for most equipment types. Each year current tools are refined and updated. The list will continue to grow as more are developed, based on requests from clinicians and others interested in interoperability. For more information about helping develop or review these tools contact Paul Dow via e-mail at Pdow@acc.org.