What are the benefits from using standards: for patients, for industry, for health?

Let’s start with a real life example of how operability can change a patient’s experience of his health care.

Let’s consider 4 different levels for interoperability and see what can happen in a real life situation for a patient:

Level 0: no interoperability at all
Level 1: technical and syntactical interoperability (no semantic interoperability*)
Level 2: partial semantic interoperability
Level 3: full semantic interoperability, sharable context, seamless co-operability

* the ability of computer systems to exchange data with unambiguous, shared meaning.

56 year old Sean recently moved from Ireland to Spain to take up his new job in a multinational IT company. A few weeks aft er arriving, he falls ill, consults his local (Spanish) GP and is transferred to the next hospital for further tests. Depending on the level of Operability established, the hospital has to initiate the following steps:

Sean has to undergo a full set of lengthy investigations for the doctors to find out the cause of his severe pain. Unfortunately, results from the local GP as well as from his Irish GP are not available at the point of care within the hospital due to the missing technical equipment.

Sean’s doctor in the hospital is able to receive electronic documents that were released from the Irish GP as well as his local GP upon request. Widely available applications supporting syntactical interoperability (such as web browsers and email clients), allow the download of patient data and provide immediate access. Unfortunately, none of the available doctors in the hospital is able to translate the Irish document, and only human intervention allows interpreting the information submitted by the local GP for adding into the hospitals information system.

The Spanish hospital doctor is able to securely access via the Internet parts of Sean’s Electronic Health Record released by his Irish GP as well as the local GP that he visited just hours earlier. Although both documents contain mostly free text, fragments of high importance (such as demographics, allergies, diagnoses, and parts of medical history) are encoded using international coding schemes, which the hospital information system can automatically detect, interpret and meaningfully present to the attending physician.

In this ideal situation and aft er thorough authentication took place, the Spanish hospital information system is able to automatically access, interpret and present all necessary medical information about Sean to the physician at the point of care. Neither language nor technological differences prevent the system to seamlessly integrate the received information into the local record and provide a complete picture of Sean’s health as if it would have been collected locally. Further, the anonymised data feeds directly into the tools of public health authorities and researchers.

Findings from studies that show the safety or quality impact from using standards

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Benefits for patients

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Benefits for healthcare professionals

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Benefits for users

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Benefits for healthcare businesses

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