Health Data Interoperability

Defining Interoperability

The Health Information Management Systems Society (HIMSS) defines interoperability as follows:

Interoperability describes the extent to which systems and devices can exchange data, and interpret that shared data. For two systems to be interoperable, they must be able to exchange data and subsequently present that data such that it can be understood by a user.

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) describes interoperability as:

  • a learning health system where individuals are at the center of their care

  • where providers have a seamless ability to securely access and use health information from different sources

  • where an individual’s health information is not limited to what is stored in electronic health records (EHRs), but includes information from many different sources (including technologies that individuals use) and portrays a longitudinal picture of their health, not just episodes of care

  • where diagnostic tests are only repeated when necessary, because the information is readily available

  • and where public health agencies and researchers can rapidly learn, develop, and deliver cutting edge treatments


At HDConsult, we strongly believe in the concepts embodied in these two takes on articulating interoperability in healthcare. We use our strategic and technical experience to help our clients work toward advancing the goals identified by the ONC.

Here are a couple examples of how we’ve helped providers advance their interoperability capabilities:


Urban Federally Qualified Health Center

A client we had worked with on several other EMR projects asked us to help them implement a closed loop, electronic referral methodology with a regional smoking cessation provider. We worked with a grant funded program to build a solution for the client’s EMR using a customized implementation of the Direct Protocol and the Qvera Interface Engine. Because of this project, our client sends fewer faxes, reduced provider data-entry, and providers can now view treatment notes and nicotine replacement therapy prescriptions that were previously unavailable.

Based on HDConsult’s demonstrated technical expertise and project management processes, the grant funder asked us to take over technical management of the program for an additional four participating providers.


Physical/Behavioral Integrated Care Pilot Project

A behavioral health center and an FQHC who had a history of working closely together received a SAMHSA grant to run an integrated health home pilot program. Different organizations have developed slightly different models for the health home concept. The National Council for State Legislators, the Patient-Centered Primary Care Collaborative, and SAMHSA/HRSA have all developed models to guide provider organizations in creation of integrated health homes. All of the models involve care coordination, information integration, and shared quality measurement.

For this project, several circumstances limited the options available to the collaboration:

  • the regional health information exchange could not provide the required data exchange functionality

  • the provider organizations could not use a common EHR, but maintained their separate EHR technology

After consulting with all of the stakeholders, HDConsult facilitated the creation of a plan based on existing provider workflows.

The plan included:

  • CCD exchange between the major providers via HL7 v2.x

  • Federated Single Sign-On with regional HIE

HDConsult facilitated the implementation of the technical solution, advised the organizations on workflow updates, privacy policy changes, and governance issues.



These are just two examples out of many in which HDConsult has assisted providers to make their health information technology more interoperable. Think your needs are too complicated? We enjoy a challenge. Contact us today to schedule a conversation to explore the possibilities with us.


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