Interoperability: Where We’ve Been and Where We’re Going

“Interoperability” is a hot topic in the healthcare industry today. Everyone in the healthcare industry recognizes its importance and are working together to achieve a well-connected healthcare industry.

Interoperability is important for a better healthcare system and population health. Let’s learn more about it.

What is interoperability?

Interoperability is defined as two or more systems, devices, or applications having the capability to access, exchange, and use information, regardless of organizational or geographic barriers. There are four levels of interoperability:

  • Level One, Foundational: Defines the requirements necessary for any two systems to transfer data between them.
  • Level Two, Structural: Establishes the format and organization of the data field levels to allow for interpretation.
  • Level Three, Semantic: Provides commonality through standard definitions of the data elements to create shared understanding.
  • Level Four, Organizational: Ensures timely, seamless, and secure communication of data by considering policy, legal, social, and governance issues.

Interoperability enables the patient’s entire care team to access their complete medical record, enhancing patient care and efficiency.

How has interoperability advanced to this point?

The introduction of EHRs was integral to healthcare interoperability as we know it today. As continuity of care became a more focused goal, creating interfaces for different systems to communicate became more commonplace. Soon enough, legislators caught on to the importance of connectivity in healthcare and began passing legislation that guided how interoperability would develop.

Many rules and laws have been made about healthcare interoperability, with some important ones being:

  • In 2009, Congress passed the HITECH Act which created Meaningful Use, the EHR Incentive Program for Health Information Technology.
  • In 2019, the Meaningful Use program transitioned to the Promoting Interoperability Programs.
  • In 2020, the 21st Century Cures Act final rule was published by ONC, and in 2022 this Act became effective.

Additionally, the Quality Payment Program has an interoperability component to its Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS). For about 15 years, there has been a big focus on improving how different healthcare systems work together.

What is the future of interoperability?

Currently, there is a large focus on FHIR, which has created a standard for seamless data exchange and is expected to continue to be implemented and grow in usage. The future goal is to establish a network that enables seamless collaboration and instant data sharing among all healthcare professionals. This network aims to enhance efficiency and improve patient care.

Connectivity will continue to grow, allowing providers to more easily collaborate and leading to improved health outcomes. A more connected healthcare system will lead to lower care costs as unnecessary repeat procedures will be reduced by having a full record of a patient’s care. The large amount of data available will lead to improvements in public health and a healthier population overall.

While interoperability can seem intimidating, it’s important for practices to ensure that they are in alignment. Knowing how important this is, Henry Schein SolutionsHub diligently seeks to offer up best-in-class solutions that meet connectivity requirements so that practices can feel confident in the vendors they’re choosing to work with.

For more information, visit and speak to one of our Solutions Consultants today.