Essay On Interoperability

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Interoperability describes the extent to which different systems and devices can be able to exchange and interpret shared data. It is critical to understand that for two systems to be interoperable there is a need for them to be able to exchange data effectively and subsequently present the data in a manner that can be well understood by the user (Benson, 2010). The mental health industry can be said to be one of the last industries to automate. However, it is important to understand that indeed the sector has been able to make up for the lost time. The electronic data and healthcare systems have been able to expand rapidly in recent years.

There is a need for data exchange schema and standards which permit data to be shared across different mental institutions and with different mental health providers. Interoperability often means that health information system can be able to work effectively together within and across different organizational boundaries in a bid to advance the effective delivery of mental health. There are three levels of interoperability (Benson, 2010). The first is foundational model. It is critical to understand that foundational interoperability often allows data exchange from one information technology system to be received by another. The foundational model does not in any way require the ability for receiving information technology system to interpret the data (Benson, 2010).

The second model is referred to as structural interoperability. The structural interoperability can be described as an intermediate level that defines the structure or format of data exchange. In this model, the message format standards and there is the uniform movement of data from one system to the next (Ayre, 2012). This, therefore, enables operational purpose and meaning of the data is often preserved and unaltered. It is the structural interoperability that can effectively define the syntax that exists in data exchange. It can ensure that data is exchanged in an effective manner and that it can be described at the data field level.

The semantic interoperability can be described as the highest level, and it is the ability of two or more system or even elements to exchange information and to use the information that has been exchanged for effective purposes. It is of important to note that indeed the semantic interoperability often takes advantage of both structuring of the data exchange as well as the subsequent codification of the data and this includes vocabulary so that the receiving information can be well interpreted. The level of semantic interoperability can support the electronic exchange of vital information and consequently, it improves quality, efficiency, efficacy, and safety of the entire healthcare delivery system.

Data normalization has often been seen by many as a foundation for semantic interoperability. In fact, scattered and isolated HIT systems have over the years evolved and they employ a large range of medical terminologies (Desourdis, 2009). The lack of standardization amongst the different technologies can be said to represent the largest barrier when it comes to semantic interoperability. Data normalization allows the ability to map the different and diverse terminologies and conflicting standards (Benson, 2010). It, therefore, allows making a standard local content to terminology standards and it semantically translates data between the different standards to eliminate effectively the ambiguity of the meaning. Further, data normalization allows the data to be understood in many different places by different technologies.


Ayre, L. B. (2012). RFID in libraries: A step toward interoperability. Chicago, IL: ALA TechSource.
Benson, T. (2010). Principles of health interoperability HL7 and SNOMED. New York: Springer.
Desourdis, R. I. (2009). Achieving interoperability in critical IT and communication systems. Boston: Artech House.