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CRI Lab Quality Advisor

Do You Speak IT? (Part 2)

Published January 11, 2016 11:35 AM by Irwin Rothenberg

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 the 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.1 Here are some additional examples:

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,” which include: enabling legislation, new developments in hardware and software and cultural changes toward increased openness in the sharing of healthcare data. Information exchange is only one part of this picture.

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. It can also refer to analytics, big data or a certain group of patients—either those that a particular organization is responsible for or those within a specific geographic region. It is important to be aware of these differences and to clarify the context when using this term in presentations or discussions for effective communication.

Coding Nomenclatures
Coding names and systems not only vary between medical disciplines and practices, but also 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.



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


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