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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Finally, a new definition of Interoperability

And do you know how I respond to this?  I'm so very glad you figured that out.  Now that you understand it, can we get on to some real work?

It's good that various organizations take the time to define what they are after.  And there is value in looking at things over again from time to time to see what's changed.  And it is also a good thing to get everyone on the same page.  And I'm sure there was some good reason for this effort in 2013.  But it doesn't excite me in the least.

This project has been done, and redone, and frankly, overdone, by AHIMA (2006), HIMSS (2005), HL7 (2007), NAHIT (2005) and ONC and various others over the past decade.  For those of us who have been working in the field for the last decade or so are just a bit bored about new definitions for old concepts.

Was some or all of the prior work even considered?  Unfortunately I don't know.  The really sad part here is that I could have even helped out with these observations ahead of time, if I just had more time to pay attention.

One thing I truly find painful is when old definitions for old concepts are simply renamed.  What IEEE used to call Interoperability in 1990 is what HIMSS calls Semantic Interoperability in 2013.

The IEEE definition published the most oft-quoted definition of Interoperability I've seen:
... the ability of two or more systems or components to exchange information and to use the information that has been exchanged.
and comes from the IEEE Standards Dictionary, a compendium of glossaries published in 1990 (and is referenced from the HIMSS definition).

Would you like to know what the IEEE Standards Glossary says in 2013?
Ability of a system or a product to work with other systems or products without special effort on the part of the customer. Interoperability is made possible by the implementation of standards.
Quite different phrasing, but much the same meaning to those of us who work in the space. To those who don't work in the space, this is much clearer.  The without special effort on the part of the consumer is implied in the previous definition.  Here it is made explicit, and that is quite useful.  Was that even referenced?

Don't get me wrong, getting folks to agree on what you are doing is good.  Just don't expect me to get excited about redoing work that is already more than two decades old, and that comes to the same conclusions.  It's simply not notable.

To do it again?  Somehow I think there are better uses of our time, and wonder why nobody brought that up.  Perhaps it helped to educate the new crop of freshman. I don't know, and just cannot figure this one out.

  -- Keith