Healthcare services have been profoundly impacted by the use of electronic medical records (EMR) platforms in recent years, making patients’ medical histories readily available in digital format. However, interoperability among platforms still remains a barrier. In this article, the nature of interoperability will be discussed alongside the current approaches to overcome these challenges.
To better understand the limitations currently faced, it is crucial to analyze the three levels where interoperability works as a health information technology to exchange patient information2:
- Foundational: represents the most basic level of data sharing. Systems can exchange patient history, but without the ability to interpret it.
- Structural: this intermediate level of communication allows for the exchanging of information and limited data interpretation.
- Semantic: represents the most advanced exchange between systems. When communication occurs at the semantic level, it allows for the complete utilization of shared data by operatively different EMRs.
Any degree of interoperability that can only reach the two first levels will fall short in satisfying current field demands. Rather, an integral semantic approach will be able to achieve improved quality, safety and efficiency in healthcare delivery.
2. Improving EMRs cross-talk with semantics
Achieving complex conversational features between two technically unrelated platforms is a challenge that requires human-like communication features.
In general terms, semantics is defined as the branch of linguistics that is concerned with meaning. In regards to EMR software interoperability, semantics involves the creation of concepts (the definition of a particular subject) and the relationships between these concepts.3 In other words, connecting concepts in networks so they become machine-readable much like words in a language acquire meaning when used in a certain context. If such degree of standardization can be obtained for a wide range of concepts, then utilization of shared data among EMRs can be streamlined.
3. Intelligent dermatology software as solution
The development of cloud-based intelligent software solutions, such as DermEngine (part of a SaaS approach), has had great impact in the way current interoperability barriers are tackled. These systems have the ability for easy integration to a variety of popular healthcare EMRs granting access to stored patient data. Simultaneously, they become the user’s operating interface, thus creating a commonly shared platform regardless of the original EMR system’s brand. As a result, these software work to unify EMRs in a truly interoperable approach, allowing efficient communication among users across different platforms
The incorporation of EMR software in healthcare has brought many advantages. However, it also made evident that interoperability constitutes a technical barrier in patient data sharing and utilization. Cloud-based intelligent software has brought significant improvement. While there is not a single solution approach to interoperability challenges, and improvements are still needed, intelligent software remains the best option to a seamless integration and data utilization for efficient daily practice.
-The MetaOptima Team
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