Interoperability in Healthcare: Challenges, Examples & Benefits

March 6, 2024

Learn why interoperability is integral to healthcare’s future and how Cox Prosight can improve hospital interoperability.

Today’s hospitals and healthcare facilities rely on electronic health data being both private and secure, yet easily accessible, to both clinicians and patients. Interoperability is becoming a key element to the success of hospital operations. But what is interoperability in the hospital landscape, why is interoperability important in healthcare, and what does it mean for the future of the healthcare industry?

What is Interoperability in Healthcare?

Interoperability is the ability of two or more systems, devices, or applications to access, exchange, integrate, or use health data in a coordinated manner. It seamlessly transfers data across organizational, regional, and national boundaries. As a result, healthcare interoperability solutions allow data to be securely accessed and shared across the entire healthcare ecosystem, from hospitals and clinics to insurance companies and individuals. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), healthcare data interoperability aims to improve electronic reporting to public health, with the ultimate goal of improving patient care overall. 

The 4 Levels of Healthcare Interoperability

Assessing examples of interoperability in healthcare can give hospitals better insight and understanding of their organization’s operations and processes. There are four levels of interoperability in healthcare, including:  

Foundational (Level 1)

Foundational interoperability is the ability of one system or application to send and receive data from another. For example, a nurse sharing a PDF document — that summarizes a patient’s hospital stay and discharge instructions — with another system is foundational interoperability. 

Structural (Level 2)

In this second layer, structural interoperability defines the format, syntax, and organization of the data exchange between systems or applications. Sometimes, this layer is also called syntactic or technical interoperability. 

Health data standards, like FHIR, Direct, and C-CDA, create structural interoperability so records can be consistent and easily move between systems.

Semantic (Level 3)

Semantic interoperability ensures the sending and receiving systems use the same standardized, codified data. Level 3 aims to create a common vocabulary, enabling accurate machine-to-machine communication, and guaranteeing reliable data for patients and organizations. 

For example, when a hospital shares a patient’s EHR with another hospital, semantic interoperability allows the two systems to exchange and understand medical information effortlessly.

Organizational (Level 4)

The last level is organizational interoperability, which “includes governance, policy, social, legal, and organizational considerations to facilitate the secure, seamless, and timely communication and use of data within organizations, entities, and individuals,” according to HIMSS

Organizational interoperability is the goal of most healthcare organizations, but many are working to establish foundational and structural interoperability. 

The adoption of electronic health record (EHR) systems has increased in the last five years. Still, the nation has yet to see widespread interoperability between those systems.

what are the benefits of interoperability in healthcare?

What are the Benefits of Interoperability in Healthcare?

Hospital interoperability positively affects everyone in the healthcare industry, including organizations, staff, and patients. These are just a few examples of interoperability in healthcare and the benefits: 

  • Easier data exchange: Healthcare data interoperability ensures all systems are updated, universal, and easy to use, so that data can seamlessly flow between EHR systems and healthcare stakeholders. 
  • Data standardization: Hospital data interoperability sets a standard that all electronic health data must adhere to. Systems can properly exchange and interpret data correctly, eliminating fragmented data.  
  • Improved efficiency across healthcare systems: Healthcare data interoperability eliminates the inefficiency of manual effort, saving healthcare staff and organization time by combining all systems into one interface.

Common Challenges of Interoperability in Healthcare 

While most leaders in the healthcare industry agree that interoperability would improve healthcare as a whole, there are still issues to overcome. Here are some of the common barriers to interoperability in healthcare organizations.

  • Lack of knowledge: Before hospitals can implement new healthcare interoperability solutions, their staff may need additional training to understand how they work. 
  • Disorganized systems: Many healthcare organizations with legacy systems face the issue of poor compatibility. Not only do they need to modernize their systems, but they also must ensure the new system is compliant with interoperability requirements. 
  • Poor compatibility: In healthcare, interoperability standards may not be compatible with each other. Therefore, organizations that utilize multiple systems may struggle with interoperability.
how to improve your hospitals interoperability with cox prosight

How to Improve Your Hospital’s Interoperability with Cox Prosight 

While interoperability in healthcare may at first seem a daunting thing to implement, Cox Prosight is helping hospitals transform their operations with our comprehensive real-time location system (RTLS) platform. Prosight improves hospitals’ operational interoperability by automating data exchange and information for: 

1. Asset Tracking

Prosight’s asset tracking capabilities give hospitals a 360-degree view of all assets located throughout their facility. Staff can easily view equipment locations for maintenance, patient care, sanitizing, recalls, or rental units. This real-time information is conveniently accessible from a desktop, tablet, or smartphone.

Additionally, all equipment data is viewable in the Prosight platform, and hospitals can customize their asset tracking system to meet their unique needs.

2. Equipment Maintenance

Without an effective asset tracking solution, many hospitals struggle to fully grasp their equipment utilization. With Prosight-enabled healthcare interoperability, hospitals can help prevent maintenance failure and equipment shrinkage with an accurate view of the status of every asset. Prosight helps hospitals make informed decisions when it's time to purchase or rent medical equipment, automatically keeping staff on the same page. 

3. Environmental Monitoring

Hospitals have hundreds of temperature-sensitive areas throughout their facility, and they have to report data on these areas to various agencies. With Prosight, hospitals can automate environmental monitoring and reporting, eliminating manual temperature checks.

Prosight improves data interoperability by automatically gathering data within the platform and aggregating it into reporting that’s ready to be sent off for compliance auditing. 

Ready to Overcome Interoperability Barriers and Transform Your Hospital? 

Many hospitals and healthcare facilities are forced to use siloed solutions to solve various operational issues. This can lead to many challenges as hospitals try to comply with hospital interoperability requirements. 

Cox Prosight helps improve interoperability in healthcare by providing the highest level of operational insight. Prosight provides the capability to track and monitor assets, environments, and people across an entire facility, all through one platform. 

To learn more about how Cox Prosight can help your hospital overcome interoperability barriers, please get in touch with our team today.

George Valentine
AVP & General Manager

George is an entrepreneurial executive and serial entrepreneur successful in launching, growing, and managing technology-based companies. George joined Cox Communication’s Innovation group in 2014 and is responsible for developing, incubating, and executing the company’s Connected Health strategy, including solution and partnership development, investments, acquisitions, and market trials. Prior to Cox, George founded two successful technology companies, performed a venture-backed company turnaround, and led large enterprise projects as a KPMG management consultant. George holds an MBA and B.S. in Finance from the University of South Carolina. George, his wife, and two children live in Atlanta, GA.