Today we continue with our discussion of commonly misused terms in healthcare  information technology (IT).  The recent and rapid development of this technology, as well as their evolving applications of these same terms, opens up the possibility of  misinterpreted use.   It’s important to ensure that we are all on “the same page” when using these terms for the sake of accurate communication and patient safety.  These examples were recently published in Health IT and CIO Review[i].  Here are some additional examples:

  1. Interoperability vs. Information Exchange: Interoperability can refer to the capability of systems to talk to one another, and effectively move information back and forth in a usable format.   Within the Healthcare IT profession, the goal is to create an environment  where  EHRs and software from different vendors are able to seamlessly interact with any hardware or software that the client uses.   It is not uncommon for healthcare executives and administrators to use the term in place of, or in reference to, information exchange,  although the two are different.    Interoperability specifies how data is accessed ,  assimilated, and what can be done with it.  It involves many “moving parts”, including:  enabling legislation, new developments in hardware and software, and cultural changes toward increased openness in the sharing healthcare data.   Information exchange is only one part of this picture.
  1. Population Health: The proper use of this term depends on context:  it can be used to describe a model of healthcare delivery, such as that delivered under Accountable Care Organizations,  or it can refer to a type of analytics, big data, or a certain group of patients that a particular organization is responsible for,  or is within a specific geographic region.  It is important to be aware of these differences, and clarify the context when using this term in presentations, or discussions,  for effective communication.
  1. Coding Nomenclatures: Coding names and systems vary, not only between medical disciplines and practices, but from country to country.  ICD-10, CPT, HCPCS, and PCS all have different structures and standards,  and are used in different places of service.  Mistaking one acronym for another is confusing for the recipient of the information.

As communication within the healthcare profession continues to evolve away from the direct, personal, and local, to the electronic, programmatic and remote,  the potential for misunderstanding and misinterpretation increases.  Thus, using this terminology  appropriately assumes preemptive  importance.

[i] Green, Max. Untangling The Lingo: 10 Most Misused Health IT Terms. Health IT and CIO Review. Sept. 9, 2015.

About The Author

Irwin is Quality Advisor for COLA Resources, Inc (CRI®). where he provides a wide range of technical assistance to laboratories across the country. He previously held the position of Executive Director at Community Response, a community-based organization that provides HIV/AIDS support services in metropolitan Chicago. Prior to that position he was the Laboratory Manager of Crittenden Memorial Hospital, West Memphis, AR. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Brooklyn College, a Medical Technology degree from Good Samaritan School of Medical Technology, a Master of Science degree from Colorado State University, and a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Memphis.