Interoperability is the ability of different systems, organisations or countries to exchange health information and use it meaningfully. That means the participants must be able to understand and interpret the shared information correctly, which basically means using the same standards and processes to provide an eHealth service.
Interoperability is especially crucial in the health sector, as this domain is heterogeneous and complex, covering diverse actors ranging from providers to complex sets of patients who visit and may be registered in several health care institutions. Moreover, as national governments often provide a range of public services, every healthcare system often consists of a peculiar mix of private and public services that are often badly integrated. A healthcare provider can offer a specific type of services, and thus deals with a subset of patients and their information, which requires well developed interoperability between institutions to share the overall picture of a patient. There are further issues in the international space and among EU member states, where healthcare collaboration is often hindered by differences in the eHealth vocabulary used and different interpretations of the same notions, which prevents effective cross-border collaboration.
Lack of interoperability translates to various problems facing citizens as they attempt to access health services in different institutions and countries. Therefore, interoperability will improve the health of every citizen in the Eastern partner countries. Our vision is that in 10 years’ time, when a patient from Country A needs urgent care in Country B, healthcare providers will have immediate access to information on which medications the patient is sensitive or allergic to. This summary of a patient’s health condition is crucial when making urgent life or death choices that characterise the healthcare sector.