journal of biomedical informatics
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Why Do We Need an Architectural Approach to Interoperability?

Author(s): Bernd Blobel, Frank Oemig

Objectives: Health systems are on the move to increasing complexity, distribution, autonomy, number of domains or disciplines involved, thereby requesting evolution of inter- operability to support required communication and cooper- ation among those systems for meeting intended business objectives.

Methods: Information cycle model with its phases and phase transitions as well as systems theory are used to de- scribe structure and processes of healthcare business cases and the interoperability levels for enabling the communi- cation and cooperation between the principals involved.

Results: When focusing on interoperability between health information systems acting as principals in an ICT business case, di erent levels of contribution to the common busi- ness case, i.e. phases to the completion of the informa- tion cycle, provided by the principals can be distinguished. While the rst two levels, sharing data related to the busi- ness case, and sharing information derived from those data to de ne the required business process actions, deal with the communication challenge of interoperability, just the third level of providing the required action according to the business case concerns its operational part. Such service delivery requires appropriate system archi- tecture for meeting the service functional cooperation challenge. When extending the consideration beyond ICT systems towards real world business systems, the archi- tecture of non-ICT systems regarding their structure and behavior must be represented to be shared as required in the business case as well. This system extension requires domain knowledge based interoperability for covering the domain-speci c concepts and relations including the constraints to be applied. When not just considering the domain-speci c context, but also the context of the individual user, personalized business systems are managed.

Conclusions: Advanced healthcare systems require not just communication standards for enabling interoperability, but also multi-domain, ontology-driven interoperability standards based on a generic reference architecture, that is also shortly presented in this paper.