Do You Speak IT? (Part 1)
I recently read an interesting article1 in Health IT and CIO Review that discussed
commonly misused IT terms in the healthcare profession. The fact that these
terms are misused so frequently is not solely due to misunderstanding or
unfamiliarity; it reflects how new the field of healthcare IT is and how the
meaning and interpretation of this terminology continues to evolve and reflect
new applications. So, consider this partial list a moving target, subject to
1. Interface vs. Integration
While used interchangeably, they mean different things. Interface refers to
communication and interaction, whereas Integration refers to combination.
Interface applies to hardware or software that communicates
information between users, devices or programs. It also applies to the
interaction that occurs among individuals, groups, and organizations.
Integration refers to the process of bringing related parts of a system together—combining
them, so to speak.
This refers to information science and the way data is processed, stored and
retrieved. Correct usage depends on understanding what it is you are
referencing. Are you talking about types of data involved (in healthcare, it
can include behavioral, medical or financial data) or are you discussing the
computational process (the calculations performed using algorithms specific to
the health data)? Be careful to avoid overusing this term as a trendy
substitute for “information” or “data” alone.
3. EHR vs. EMR
These are often used interchangeably. The electronic medical record (EMR) is
basically a paper chart in electronic format. Unlike an electronic health record
(EHR), it may not contain long-term health information or aggregated patient
data provided by other providers. The EHR includes these in order to provide a
comprehensive medical and prescription history.
There is a temptation to use this term immediately after the rollout of an IT
system in workflow, otherwise known as Implementation. Optimization is the
process of bringing the new system up to peak performance after it is
operational. The problem here is that the implementation phase may not have
been fully vetted before the emphasis shifts to optimizing or “polishing” the
system. The result is that organizations risk struggling to optimize a system
that still has workflow and service delivery problems.
Optimization is a seductive term, indicating a high level of
systemic strength and process reliability, when the reality may be otherwise. Be
careful not to overuse it (wishful thinking) when the focus should still be on
fixing implementation issues.
There are many more terms related to healthcare IT that are
often used inappropriately, and we will continue with this list in Part II.
1. Green, Max. Untangling The Lingo: 10 Most Misused Health
IT Terms. Health IT and CIO Review. Sept. 9, 2015. http://www.beckershospitalreview.com/healthcare-information-technology/untangling-the-lingo-10-most-misused-health-it-terms.html