Kathleen Roney of Becker’s Hospital Review recently opined, “In order for the healthcare industry to move toward preventive care and population health management, clinical information needs to flow freely across networks and between hospitals and physicians. For this reason, healthcare organizations need interoperability — efficient yet secure means for IT systems and software applications to communicate and exchange patient data. While CMS focused the latest stage of its meaningful use program on measures and objectives to encourage interoperability, the effect of that will not be seen until later in 2013 and early 2014 when providers begin to incorporate those measures and objectives into their clinical work. ”

Roney argues, “Interoperability needs to include semantics. Many IT products and software are not semantically interoperable with each other, which is another major barrier toward reaching interoperability within the healthcare industry and across providers. For instance, one system might call a heart attack a myocardial infarction in its EHR, and another might call it a heart attack. While clinicians know that means heart attack, unless the system is digitized with that standard, it may not recognize the two classifications as one and the same. Semantic interoperability is interoperability at the highest level because it involves the structure of the data exchange and the codification of the data so a receiving IT system can interpret the data. This will become more important as providers go to risk-based payment models and attempt to manage populations.”

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