The Challenge of Interoperability and Hospital Messaging

Interoperability and Hospital Messaging

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 in a manner that can be understood by a user. Typically, this exchange is thought of in terms of how one EMR or large complex system can exchange records with another. However, by limiting interoperability to this definition, we fail to realize just how much information is exchanged on platforms like secure hospital messaging engines and just how important interoperability and hospital messaging are to one another.

While it might seem semantic, it is imperative that we embrace a more robust definition of interoperability. True interoperability means that we focus on the exchange of information across all sectors of healthcare. A greater understanding of the term means that we realize interoperability is not just the exchange of information between EMRs; it also includes the exchange of information over secure messaging platforms. For interoperability to reach its true potential, it needs to make room for secure messaging platforms and consider the role messaging plays in the exchange of digital information in healthcare.

The goal of this blog is to:

  • Highlight the importance of interoperability in healthcare
  • Note the role of secure messaging in interoperability

Why is interoperability important

Interoperability is important because it helps reduce the time it takes to have useful conversations between providers as well as between doctors and their patients. As one source put it:

[N]ot only does interoperability enable more coordinated care, but as healthcare delivery and payment increasingly shifts to value-based care, interoperable health IT is integral to the effective communication that will help improve the quality of care, better the health of communities, and lower per capita costs.

In order to provide coordinated care and effective communications, interoperability must support technologies that allow for these sorts of easy communications to happen

Coordinated care and effective communications are crucial for effective patient care, whether that is care of for chronic conditions or for conditions with multiple health service providers. Interoperability enables safer transitions of care, which leads to better patient outcomes over all.

Challenges of interoperability

One of the challenges of interoperability that must be highlighted though while discussing its benefits is the security rules that inevitably set up barriers to true sharing of information. HIPAA rules demand a closed system to ensure the security of patient information. That means, users can only send information to individuals on a preapproved list of individuals.

While this standard of HIPAA compliant messaging does make sending information more secure, it also inevitably limits who you can send information to. The challenges to achieving semantic interoperability transcend the technical, as there are cultural, social, policy and economic barriers to data sharing as well.

Ideally, any system of interoperability which is adopted is able to provide the appropriate level of HIPAA-compliance as well as the ability to enhance the communication around a patient’s care coordination.

What is the role of secure messaging in interoperability

Secure messaging defines a HIPAA compliant and encrypted messaging platform that allows physicians and nurses to exchange text messages and images during a patient’s care. Patient information can only be exchanged by authorized users who have been trained and approved by the hospital.

At it’s core, interoperability is about providing better care faster. It’s about improving workflow and improving patient outcomes. To achieve these ends, healthcare officials must include secure messaging  as a vital part of the interoperability discussion. Secure messaging is key as it democratizes information exchange and makes it possible for all authorized personnel to receive and exchange necessary information which will improve patient care.


Recognizing the importance of interoperability is crucial for any professional working in the healthcare industry. Given that so many of our systems and pieces of equipment are connected with one another over wired and wireless networks, we all need to stay on top of interoperability developments.

As noted in this blog, one of the key ways to advance interoperability is by bringing secure messaging into the discussion.

Read more about how interoperability needs hospital messaging, download our whitepaper.