Interoperability: Solving the Puzzle of Data Access and Exchange

For systems to “speak the same language,” we need all the right pieces in place

puzzle with missing piece showing connectivity lines

Modernization relies on getting data where it needs to go to protect health. Newer policies and modern standards can help us access and exchange important health information that is not readily available now.

In 2022, we continued working with the Office of the National Coordinator of Health IT (ONC) and other partners from across healthcare, government, and the private sector on shared priorities to advance public health.

Together, we’re looking at interoperability from different angles, including the agreements we use to exchange data, the architecture it flows through, the elements that are captured, and the standards that are used to share them. For example:

  • The Trusted Exchange Framework and Common Agreement (TEFCA) guides how different, individual systems connect to share information consistently – without having to come up with their own approaches and rules for doing so.
  • Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources, or FHIR (pronounced “fire”), offers specifications that give data structure and make information available to support the needs of public health officials and their many partners.
  • And the North Star Architecture shows where everyone is going together. You can think of it like a diagram for planning a city that includes things like a library or post office that will provide benefits for many people in the community.

Like a puzzle, the pieces must all come together to get public health data where it needs to go.

Interoperability: Data Elements, Data Exchange, Data Architecture, Data Standards

Clockwise from top:
Data Elements: ONC's recent launch of USCDI+ is helping to create a core set of standardized data elements, making mission critical data more consistent, compatible, and usable.
Data Exchange: In January 2022, the latest guidance on TEFCA was released with recommendations on how public health agencies can get involved.
Data Architecture: The North Star Architecture offers a shared vision of a future public health data infrastructure to help jurisdictions share necessary data with each other and CDC.
Data Standards: Helios will help public health align with, and benefit from, the widespread transformation of digital health data using FHIR.