Languages of Health Informatics. A Survey of Standards

Working Paper Authors Publish Date
41 Arun Agrawal
Norm Archer
May. 2012

Integration of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in healthcare has been a much talked about topic in the last decade. Much effort is being put into integrating new  technologies to improve the delivery of care, public health and other related administrative tasks. Although almost everybody agrees that this change is necessary and would bring positive changes to the healthcare system, the actual implementation in the field has seen mixed results. A number of factors make an implementation successful or unsuccessful; interoperability is one of the factors which is often seen to have a major impact1. Standards play a crucial role in enabling interoperability.

One of the main objectives of eHealth is to provide healthcare professionals with ICT tools and systems to enable collection, management and sharing of healthcare related information. As stated earlier, interoperability among these systems is necessary for them to be adopted and yield real value. Standards form the backbone of all such ICT tools, ensuring syntactic and semantic interoperability. Standards also cut down the cost of development of systems and tools if used in an appropriate manner2. Thus, it is important to have a good understanding and knowledge about standards to be able to do any successful work in eHealth tool and system development and integration.
Although a number of standards are available which solve interoperability issues to a great extent, developing standards based healthcare ICT solution has a number of challenges:

1. No one standard serves all use cases. Standards are usually designed for a specific purpose and have to be used in combination to create a useful system.
2. Competing standards exist that serve the same purpose.
3. There is a lack of easily available information resources about standards to help implementers understand and choose between standards.
4. There is a lack of proper specifications regarding testing of conformance to standards.

This paper presents a survey of health informatics standards, including an overview, current status and comparison of current popular standards. The main objective of this study is to do a survey of health informatics standards to help developers of eHealth systems make informed decisions about when, where, what, and how to use standards.

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