Interoperability: Achieving plug and play in healthcare
While ‘plug and play’ is a reality in many fields (e.g. USB or GSM), it is still a headache in healthcare. More interoperability is absolutely crucial to allow the eHealth market to flourish. The Digital Agenda has recognised this challenge through its key action 77, and COCIR developed an ‘Industry Guide to eHealth Interoperability in Six Steps’ to help local decision makers build interoperable systems. Other interesting initiatives like IHE strive to educate users on interoperability. More initiatives of this style are needed to educate national, regional and local decision makers and SMEs on interoperability.
Joint efforts are also needed to promote interoperability:
• Build on best practices to encourage the use of internationally-recognised standards and interoperability profiles in public procurement.
• Most public policies and projects focus on technical interoperability (the ability of two IT systems to communicate), and neglect semantic interoperability (the ability to understand the information exchanged at both end of the healthcare chain). eHealth project leaders need to develop efforts to imbed achievable levels of semantic interoperability in parallel to technical aspects. This calls for a step by step approach by focusing on a small number of widely-needed terminologies.