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Information Technology Standards in Health Care


Information technologies (IT) are widely spread today. They are frequently used in the sphere of healthcare to maintain everyday operations. The most benefit can be obtained when those healthcare information systems that are implemented are also interoperable. They allow various departments within one healthcare organization to share information and exchange messages. Moreover, they provide the same opportunities for different healthcare establishments regardless of their location. Unfortunately, a range of challenges can be faced during this procedure because organizations tend to follow regional demands that do not always coincide. Trying to avoid them, professionals should ensure the ability of data exchange and compliance with standards.

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Interoperability presupposes the creation a set of standards. Still, sometimes they remain too general, which leads to medical errors as one, and the same point can be interpreted differently. Technological challenges may occur because different systems may define one and the same concept variously, which leads to the complications. Except for that, the organization may use outdated legacy systems. They became generally used much earlier than interoperability became common and precluded it to ensure security. Thus, some seniors may also be against the implementation of interoperable IT. Moreover, such alteration is likely to be rather costly, which means that the funding is required, but it cannot be obtained just because the change is likely to bring benefit. Moreover, state law may restrict the exchange of particular information, and cause legal challenges (Dechene, 2010).


To deal with possible issues, professionals need to follow Health Level (HL) 7 standards that healthcare facilities use “for message exchange and for the definition of integration scenarios” (Barbaritoa et al., 2012). They provide a framework for work with electronic health information. They are grouped in seven categories that provide the most popular and general standards; fundamental tools; messaging and document standards; functional models; technical, programming, and software peculiarities; and educational resources.

Role in the Implementation and Data Exchange Process

These standards play a vital role in the implementation and data exchange process because they determine the limitations and steps that should be followed by the professionals. Moreover, they can be used define the tools that should be used for data exchange. They can provide a standard format for documents that are shared as well as a standardized terminology that should be used in them to reduce the possibility of mistake. In addition, they can define interoperability specifications for the messages that are accepted in the particular state and prevent legal challenges. Different hospital departments and health care establishments can understand each other’s messages with no complications, in this way.


To ensure that HL7 standards are followed within a health service organization, professionals should develop a policy, which can guide their actions. They can implement Key Performance Indicators (KPI) to evaluate improvement and define the expected behavior. Having influence on the employee wage, KPI can motivate the staff to implement alterations and work according to them. The attention can be paid to the standardization of documents and messages, as they need to have particular terminology. The presence of decent data standards should be considered, as they are to be precise for correct interpretation. Finally, it is critical to consider if the organization maintained retooling required for new systems. The presence of new investments can be also discussed in this framework, as they are required for changes connected with the implementation of interoperable healthcare information systems that follow HL7 standards.


Barbaritoa, F., Pinciroli, F., Mason, J., Marceglia, S., Mazzola, L., & Bonacina, S. (2012). Implementing standards for the interoperability among healthcare providers in the public regionalized healthcare information system of the Lombardy region. Journal of Biomedical Informatics, 45(4), 736-745.

Dechene, J. (2010). The challenge of implementing interoperable electronic medical records. Annals Health Law, 19(1), 195-203.

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