FAQ #8: What is the goal of EMR interoperability?

Healthcare Interoperability FAQ Series

FAQ #8: What is the goal of EMR interoperability?


The goal of EMR interoperability is to overcome the fact that the way EMR’s work is done, because there are different vendors and often adopted by different providers, county services and so on, is to make sure that these different systems can communicate with each other. And up until now, and still now, and for the next year or two, until the rules come into effect, these systems can’t talk to each other easily.
We have technology, of course, that allows us to have two systems connect and communicate with each other. It is fine if you’re sending information in one direction only. But when you’re trying to send information back and forth between systems, then you now have a problem where the information has to be mapped. Where does it go? What does it mean? Is it related to a piece of information already on the system? Something even as simple as the first name of a client being transferred to the first name of another client; what happens if the format in which they identify that piece of information is different?
So, this whole mapping, this whole ETL, export, transport and load information process that needs to happen for two systems to talk to each other; sure, we’ve had the technology and the ability to do that. But it’s heavy lifting when you don’t have a standardized way in which information is identified or coded. And so, the great thing about the new ONC rule is that it’s now requiring that standardization. EHR, EMR systems, and legacy systems containing healthcare information are going to have to be compliant with SMART on FHIR standards.
There is going to be a lot of vendors, particularly small EMR vendors or homegrown systems that counties or organizations are using, that need to become compliant. They really need this sort of layer, SMART on FHIR ETL process, that can take the current data model on their current system, they don’t have to make any changes, and it can sit on top and solve that challenge where they can now become compliant with the new standards.


Dr. Ralph Tarter

Dr. Weatherbee has spent decades working in education, behavioral health, public health, and more. He has experienced the unique challenges that exist in this field from multiple disciplines. His work in program evaluation lead him to create eINSIGHT to empower behavioral health service providers to improve client outcomes.