Interoperability 101

Published July 30, 2021

Not sure exactly what healthcare interoperability is? Start here.

What’s interoperability?

Interoperability is the ability to easily exchange electronic data. In the context of healthcare, that typically means the ability for you to share your health information easily and securely with doctors, health insurers, and others—and for these parties to share it with one another—with your permission.

That sounds easy enough. What’s the problem?

You’ve probably noticed that whenever you change doctors or see a specialist, you have to arrive early to fill out medical history forms. That’s because your health information doesn’t travel with you from doctor to doctor. It’s siloed across the healthcare system and cannot be easily shared. Historically, this has been for good reason: your health information is confidential, and it’s important that it’s kept safe and secure.

The problem is that this system isn’t very efficient. It’s difficult to remember decades’ worth of your own health history. And there isn’t a way for you to easily access all of your past health records, let alone in one location. At best, this is an inconvenience. At worse, it can be dangerous to give your doctors an incomplete health history—for example, if it inadvertently omits an allergic reaction or prior procedure. Healthcare works better when all parts of the system can coordinate around a 360-degree view of each patient.

Is there a solution?

Yes! The good news is that technology has advanced since these systems were put into place, giving us secure ways to make interoperability possible for healthcare. In the near future, you will be able to access and share your health records as easily as you access your bank account: with the tap of a finger on your phone. 

In the meantime, organizations across the healthcare industry—including the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association—are working together, updating and standardizing the outdated data infrastructure to make sure health information is shareable and secure.

Learn how Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies are advancing interoperability. 

The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association is an association of independent, locally operated Blue Cross and Blue Shield Companies.