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Interoperability enables information to flow seamlessly between different solutions and devices. When different parts of the health system are interoperable with each other, they can “speak the same language.” Interoperability improves continuity of care, collaboration between health providers and patient access to their health information. By breaking down data silos, it also reduces inefficiencies and redundancies within the health system.Connection, collaboration and communication have never been more important for the health system. Increased use of virtual care has highlighted the need for safe and efficient electronic sharing of information across the circle of care. Continuing to improve Canadian health care will necessitate work in interoperability — connected systems are healthier systems.
The National Effort
In support of the provinces and territories, Infoway is facilitating a national collaborative effort to advance interoperability. While there are many interoperability-related challenges, the following two have been identified as priorities based on extensive consultations:
- Sharing of patient summaries across different solutions to support transitions of care and cross-jurisdictional patient flows
- Secure messaging between solutions to enable safer and more efficient collaboration across the circle of care
In support of provinces and territories, Infoway is ramping up efforts to facilitate and accelerate collaboration among stakeholders to develop implementable specifications to address these two interoperability challenges. Check back regularly for updates, announcements and ways to get involved.
With interoperable solutions, information flows seamlessly from one solution to another, in the same way that water flows from municipal pipes into your home’s plumbing. If the pipes don’t fit — or the systems can’t talk to each other — that flow dries up.Imagine that a family physician wants to communicate with a specialist in another practice — but they use two different solutions. While some solutions offer secure messaging capabilities, most cannot communicate with all other systems. Instead of collaborating directly, clinicians develop workarounds using outdated technologies like fax machines.
Lack of Interoperability
As interoperability affects every part of the health system, Infoway’s work to support its implementation has been similarly broad. Since its inception in 2001, Infoway has been responsible for licensing, defining and maintaining pan-Canadian standards that promote interoperability. Co-investments by Infoway and the jurisdictions in foundational electronic health record systems such as laboratory systems, patient portals and electronic medical records and electronic health records have also laid a strong foundation for Canadian interoperability.Increasing use of digital health tools has created renewed impetus to address key interoperability challenges to enable better coordination and continuity of care. With better communication and collaboration between patients and providers, we can help create better health outcomes for all Canadians — and a healthier system overall.