The words “interoperability” and “health information exchange” often are used interchangeably, but they are not the same thing, says Doug Fridsma, M.D., chief science officer in the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Exchange.

In a new blog posting, Fridsma gives a tutorial on the terms that could serve as good guidance for educating C-level executives and others in an organization grappling with how better to share and use electronic health information.

Fridsma starts with the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineering definition of interoperability: “The ability of two or more systems or components to exchange information and to use the information that has been exchanged.” Consequently, there are two parts to the definition, two core different capabilities--the ability of two or more systems to exchange information and the ability of the systems to use the information that has been exchanged.

“This means that health information exchange is different than health information interoperability,” he writes. “Exchange is a necessary for interoperability, but it is not sufficient by itself to achieve health information interoperability.” Transport standards help achieve HIE but not true interoperability, he adds. The blog is available here.

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