Why we promote the development and use of interoperability standards

As people get health care in more than one facility, their clinical information is stored in different electronic health systems.

Re-using health data for better individual and collective health care provision implies the transfer of health data from one ICT health system to another similar system.

Unfortunately, health ICT systems use different standards, or no standards at all, which means that not all data can be easily linked and connected.

Hence there is a need for interoperability standards, which define how clinical information should be transferred.

Standards facilitate seamless sharing of information between health information systems

Interoperability standards: a long history

Still a challenge

There is a long history of developing international standards to enable mappings between health ICT system. i~HD experts bring 30 years of history in interoperability research and standards making.

Bodies such as CEN, ISO, HL7, IHE, WHO, LOINC, SNOMED, CDISC and OMOP are examples of organisations that have defined relevant parts of the standards landscape for the kinds of data transfer they specialise in.

However, despite this rich array of available standards, the experience of most health care professionals and patients is a lack of connectivity. People undertaking large-scale research struggle to bring together the data they need, on enough patients, and their data harmonisation costs are a substantial part of the total cost of undertaking research.

Towards a connected and collaborative health environment

This landscape is changing, thankfully. Health care funders (health ministries, health insurance) increasingly want care to be connected. They are starting to demand better clinical outcomes and to financially incentivise those outcomes. This stimulates, for the first time, a business case for hospitals to be more interoperable.

Secondly, countries are now making substantial investments in research infrastructures that aggregate the data at large population levels. These investments are gradually also trickling down to health care organisations as incentives to have better connected and better quality data.

Improved interoperability is a critical success factor for making better use of data 

i~HD is active in promoting the development and use of interoperability standards

Some examples

We have developed an education syllabus for teaching the public and health professionals about the International Patient Summary.

We have contributed to an interoperability guide for health decision makers, that will be promoted through the eHealth Network to Member State health ministries.

Through our participation in the project EHR2EDC, we are involved in bridging clinical research and healthcare standards.

We have been involved in projects that promote the adoption of interoperability standards, and help to guide health care organisations, health professionals, patients and the public and industry about the value of interoperability standards and why they should adopt them.

For example, i~HD was a partner in the Trillium II project which has helped to promote co-operation between countries internationally to develop a standard for exchanging patient health summaries, and demonstrated its value in emergency disaster recovery situations.


Through our sister institute EuroRec we are involved in a DigitalHealthEurope project , co-ordinated by i~HD member empirica, which is promoting the importance of interoperability across all stakeholders.

DigitalHealthEurope is also developing a portal to explain what interoperability standards for the public, to go live in early 2021.

Interested? Get in touch!

Would you like more information on how we can help you with regards to interoperability standards?

Contact  i~HD President  Dipak Kalra

i~HD