The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society has proposed a new definition for interoperability—its first update to the terminology since 2013.
The proposed definition describes interoperability as the ability of different information systems, devices and applications to connect within and across organizations. The goal, according to HIMSS, is to enable organizations to exchange and collaboratively use data to "optimiz(e) the health of individuals and populations."
"In the health ecosystem, interoperability furthers the goal of optimizing health by providing seamless access to the right information needed to more comprehensively understand and address the health of individuals and populations," the proposed definition reads.
The proposal builds off of the group's 2013 work.
HIMSS' 2013 definition outlined three levels of interoperability, given that healthcare organizations exchange data with one another at varying degrees. These levels were foundational, structural and semantic interoperability.
HIMSS' new definition would add a fourth level, describing a higher level of interoperability: organizational.
Groups engaged in organizational interoperability not only provide users with the technical standards and data formats that information should be exchanged in, but also nontechnical specifications such as policies and procedures, according to HIMSS. These polices and procedures encourage individuals and organizations to exchange data with one another.
" 'Organizational' interoperability encompasses the technical components as well as clear policy, social and organizational components," according to HIMSS.
HIMSS' proposed interoperability definition follows the release of two long-awaited interoperability rules from the CMS and HHS' Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology last month, both of which detail how federal regulators will encourage providers and insurers to share medical data with patients.
HIMSS is accepting feedback on its proposed interoperability definition through March 30.