Integration VS Interoperability: The Difference and Why it Matters

The terms Integration and Interoperability are both used to describe the interconnectedness of medical software. Individuals often make the mistake of thinking they share a definition, but they do not. What is the difference between interoperability and integration and why does it matter to your practice?

The Difference Between Integration and Interoperability:

1) Integration

The textbook definition of integration describes it as the bringing together of parts to form a whole. While this does describe the goal to connect medical software to work as one unit instead of multiple different parts, it does not accurately describe what your practice needs in terms of interconnectivity. Integration is often described as the translation process between different software so that that data and information can be shared, but why is your software speaking different languages in the first place?

2) Interoperability

Different than integration, interoperability also refers to interconnectivity between the software at your practice, but it involves more. Deeper than just data and information sharing, interoperability means your software is working in sync, data moving freely between software constantly, and your software understanding the data and communicating it more effectively where relevant.

Why Interoperability Matters to Your Practice:

1) Interoperable Workflow

Your team’s workflow is often bogged down by inefficiencies like duplicate data entry. Working counterproductively across departments to complete clinical and administrative workflows is avoidable when the software your practice is using is interoperable. An interoperable workflow means eliminating these data-driven inefficiencies by communicating data across all software to fill in the blanks no matter what software a provider is using. Interoperability in software that speaks the same language quickly populates the information that has been entered previously during intake or a physical encounter and eliminates duplicate entry. This creates an increase in efficiency across your practice.

2) Cut Costs

For both the patient and the practice, interoperability can cut costs. For the provider, the introduction of new revenue-building services can be slowed down or even stopped completely when their software their practice uses is not compatible. Interoperable software offers providers the chance to offer new services, communicate information to their patients more effectively, increase patient payments and more.

For the patient, when a provider has interoperable software, the cost of their overall care decreases. When software interoperability is a factor, providers can receive lab results from anywhere, eliminating repetitive testing. They can access treatment plans formed by other medical providers that the patient is connected to, preventing the patient from having to start from scratch each time they go to a new provider. When a patient’s provider has software interoperability, they spend less on their overall care.

3) Improved Clinical Decisions

How do providers offer their patients the highest quality of care? They gather the most information possible to help inform their clinical decisions. The best way to gain the most information possible is to open an accessible avenue of patient information that can improve clinical decision making, increasing the quality of care you offer your patients. Interoperability helps providers access information from other providers, from other departments, from testing/lab centers, and more. Interoperability prevents providers from prescribing conflicting medications or forming redundant treatment plans. With improved access to information, providers can access patient data within other systems, making the most up-to-date decisions as possible.

4) Health Information Exchange

Medscape defines Health Information Exchange as “the electronic movement of health-related information among organizations according to nationally recognized standards, with the goal of facilitating access to and retrieval of clinical data by physicians, nurses, pharmacists, other health care providers, and patients.”

For medical practices that either does not have interoperable software or still keep their records in a filing cabinet in paper format, providers lose out on the ability to find and utilize important data. They may be able to send and receive information, but without software interoperability, providers will fail to efficiently find data and help their patients most effectively.


To learn more about software that can help your practice achieve information interoperability, click here.