Pull the smartphone out of your bag or pocket and take a look at it (maybe you are already holding it while reading this blog). Now imagine you can only call or text people who use the same brand of phone, or who rely on the same wireless carrier as you. It would be incredibly limiting, right? But this isn’t an issue because smartphone manufacturers and wireless carriers use an interoperable platform. Interoperability technology allows for the unrestricted sharing of secure data between a variety of sources. It makes it possible for my phone to connect to your phone—or to other mobile devices—to share information, or to interact with apps, fitness trackers, and other devices regardless of the operating system or manufacturer.
In health care, interoperability is in the nascent stages, but significant progress is being made. There is an acknowledgement among stakeholders that interoperability is both essential and inevitable. The technology needed to digitally connect systems and devices across disparate systems in health care already exists. So, what's holding it back? Data from health systems, physician offices, health plans, medical technology firms, biopharma companies, and government agencies still exist in their own siloes. All of these data sets are disparate, disconnected, and not standardized. Bringing everything together in a useful manner to produce actionable insights in real time is difficult and costly. But understanding how investments and time and money would likely lead to dramatic clinical and business improvements could help to justify the costs.