Interoperability is a Big Word!

There was a statement in one of the HIStalk Readers Write 5/10/10 articles in that I haven’t been able to get out of my mind. In Digging for Gold in your HIT Applications, Ron Olsen writes:

One of the most over-used buzz words in healthcare IT is “interoperability,” a is really a big word that self-important people use to describe data transfer.

OMG, I’ve been using that word for a long time…

All joking aside, for the most part Mr Olsen’s advise to get more out of existing IT tools is a reasonable suggestion. Unfortunately, interoperability means a lot more than just “data transfer” (see Healthcare IT Interoperability Defined), and is where the advise breaks down.

Scripting tools can manipulate those files, turning them into almost any format imaginable. With the correct format, data can be transferred to disparate systems, individually or concurrently, via a data stream.

The fundamental flaw in this statement is the oversimplification (sorry, another big word) of the problem. Simple scripts are good for simple tasks. Communicating medical data reliably and securely between disparate systems is not a simple task.

I would also encourage all HIT professionals to fully understand the tools at their disposal in order to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their organizations.  There may be a few nuggets, I’m not so sure that there will be a whole lot of gold to be found when it comes to  interoperability.

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