Cardiac Remote Monitoring Platform

Read full post: Integration vs. Interoperability: What’s the Difference in Healthcare?

Integration vs. Interoperability: What’s the Difference in Healthcare?

Integration and interoperability may seem similar on the surface, but as digital transformation continues to sweep through the healthcare industry, it's important to understand the differences between these terms.

What is Integration?

The simplest definition of integration is the instance of merging two or more things into one combined whole. 


However, examples of integration take many different forms depending on the industry or the circumstances – particularly when it comes to technology. 


For example, point-of-sale (POS) system integration is common in retail. In this case, integration between POS tools and inventory management systems provides more accurate data on both sales and inventory levels. This helps retailers meet customer demand, ensuring they have enough stock while avoiding lost revenue from overstock.


Meanwhile, in the healthcare space, software integration allows healthcare professionals to cut down on their tech stack by accessing many different types of information from one single software application. In turn, this increases efficiency and the quality of care. 


What is Interoperability?

Interoperability refers to the capacity of multiple technology systems, applications, devices, or software to interact, access, and share data. 


The primary objective is to effortlessly share information across systems, regardless of their distinct architectures or technologies.


Interoperability comes in several forms with different levels of complexity. The goal is to become fully interoperable, with systems able to share and interpret information without any help from additional software or technology.


In healthcare, for example, there are three levels of interoperability:


Foundational interoperability 

With foundational interoperability, systems can share data, but the receiving system can’t interpret the data without third-party software or technology. 


Using language as the comparison, foundational interoperability would be similar to a group of people speaking different languages but making sure everyone has a translator device. They might not understand each other’s language, but the device allows them to communicate. 


Structural interoperability

Structural interoperability builds on foundational interoperability by defining the format, syntax, and organization of the data. Interpreting data is easier but may still require specialized instructions.


In this case, it’s as if everyone decided to speak the same language. However, some of the context and meaning behind the words may still be lost in translation.


Semantic interoperability

Semantic interoperability is full interoperability, where systems can share and exchange data while interpreting it at the highest level. 


Here, the group not only speaks the same language with proper grammar, but they also understand the linguistic nuances, such as the context and the meaning behind the words they use. It’s seamless communication between a group of people. 


How Are Interoperability and Integration Different? 

While integration and interoperability have some similarities, interoperability takes everything to the next level. 


Let’s use music and language as an example. 


Integration is like an orchestral performance — all of the instruments add a unique element but come together to create beautiful music. 


Think of interoperability as a translation service. It helps individuals who speak completely different languages to communicate seamlessly with each other.





What it Does

Merges two or more systems into one combined whole

Allows different systems to communicate, exchange, and interpret data in one specific format


To increase efficiency by allowing several systems to be operated as one

To standardize data into one format that can be interpreted and used by several different systems


Requires the use of other software 

Requires specific standards or protocols


Improved efficiency

Improved patient safety, quality of care, and potential cost savings on administrative costs 


Integration vs. Interoperability in Healthcare

As technology continues to advance in healthcare, so does the use of both integration and interoperability.


Integration in Healthcare

One of the best examples of integration in healthcare is data integration. Healthcare providers work with many different data types, including patient medical history, medications, diagnosis and billing codes, and more. 


Thanks to data integration, healthcare providers get a single unified view of patient data across platforms. This enables doctors to view everything they need in one place instead of going back and forth between multiple systems. 


What integration does not provide, on the other hand, is a standardized form of communication. Integration in healthcare relies on other systems, software, or technology to translate data from other providers into a specific format. 


Interoperability in Healthcare

Interoperability in healthcare doesn’t only facilitate the transfer of information between healthcare facilities. It also provides the ability to interpret this information and use it for better patient care. 

Take EHR interoperability, for example. 


EHR interoperability allows a seamless exchange of patient data among different healthcare providers and organizations. This enables patient information, such as medical history, test results, prescriptions, and treatment plans, to be securely accessed and shared between providers.


Medical specialists can retrieve relevant records from the primary care physician's EHR. This enables a comprehensive understanding of the patient's health status and ensures coordinated, efficient, and quality care.


The Value of Interoperability in Healthcare

While integration provides value to the healthcare industry, offering practitioners everything they need in one place, interoperability takes it to the next level by removing the need for intermediaries. 

Additional systems are no longer needed to translate data formats since everything already speaks the same language. 


Interoperability provides is an important component in providing top-level patient care, with benefits including: 


  • Better quality care - With full visibility into patient information, such as medical history and prescriptions, healthcare providers can offer better quality care to patients. This is especially important for eliminating human error. For example, patients who think they remember certain details about their medical history but may recall them incorrectly. Another example is maintaining notes in a patient record. If a note is manually typed in instead of being pulled automatically from the correct database, it may be incorrectly entered or inaccurate in the future when the note is referenced. 
  • Improved research - Interoperability helps with healthcare research and innovation. With constantly shared information and data, researchers can gain valuable insights into disease patterns, treatment effectiveness, and population health trends. It also helps with data accuracy for research — limiting manual data entry can increase accuracy and efficiency for researchers. 
  • Efficient decision-making - From the triaging process to providing treatment itself, providers need to be able to make critical decisions quickly. Interoperability creates a more efficient system for sharing health data, allowing providers to have what they need at their fingertips. 

Discover the Importance of Interoperability in Patient Care


If you’re looking for more information on interoperability, we can help. Explore PaceMate’s resources and find out how PaceMate’s interoperability with top EHRs.


Learn More About Interoperability

Back to Blog