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Carpathia July 07, 2015

How the Cloud Enables Interoperability

In today’s digital landscape, the cloud is revolutionizing how healthcare organizations manage IT resources. Cloud computing offers a wide range of products and services from virtual processors, data stores (IaaS) and on-demand software application programs (SaaS), to development and management platforms (PaaS).

But interoperability is not only required between these different service models—it’s required for identical components running in different clouds. In a hybrid cloud solution, an application component may be deployed in a private cloud environment with provision for a copy to be run in a community cloud to handle spikes and dips in traffic. The two components must—and can—work together.

This concept of interoperability is defined by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) as the ability of a system or a product to work with other systems or products without special effort on part of the customer. In the context of healthcare and cloud computing, interoperability is the ability of different IT systems and software applications to communicate and exchange electronic protected health information (ePHI) to better serve patients.

The cloud enables interoperability across three distinct levels:

  1. Foundational interoperability enables data exchange from one IT system to another without requiring the receiving system to interpret the data.
  2. At an intermediate level, structural interoperability defines the message format standards—or the syntax—for the movement of healthcare data from one system to another.
  3. Semantic interoperability provides interoperability to the greatest degree, allowing two or more systems to exchange and then mutually use the information. This level of interoperability supports the electronic exchange of patient summary information among caregivers and other authorized parties via differing electronic health record (EHR) systems and other systems to improve quality, safety, efficiency and efficacy of healthcare delivery.

For improved patient care, it’s critical that data exchange schema and standards permit data to be shared across clinicians, labs, hospitals, pharmacies and patients regardless of the application, cloud environment or service provider.

However, according to Doug Fridsma, chief scientist in the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, more than transport standards are needed to usher in interoperability.
“We must also use standards for vocabularies and terminologies (to help standardize the meaning of the words that we use), standards for structure (so computers know how to break a message into the appropriate information chunks), and potentially other kinds of standards,” says Fridsma.
As we work towards closing the gap between hosted and cloud ecosystems, interoperability is top of mind for Carpathia. To learn more about how we support interoperability efforts, download our Healthcare Solutions Overview, or contact us at to learn more.

Interoperability, cloud, SaaS, PaaS