Interoperability in Human Services


Interoperabilityin Human Services

Interoperability inhealth is the ability of different software applications andinformation technology systems to communicate, use information, andexchange data, which has been altered. The term is normally used inan information technology sense and again a broader sense, whichtakes into account political, social, and human services. The purposeof this paper will be to describe the services offered by mentalhealth provider as one of the human services organization, a reviewof Schoech’s “Interoperability and the Future of Human Services”,interoperability models and its advantages and disadvantages, andtheir back up plan when they fail.

To begin with,foster care provider is mandated to offer a number of services, whichinclude protection over children who would not be safe with theirfamilies. The providers take these children away from their parentsand are then made to be dependents of the court. The providers dothis by placing the children in licensed foster homes, the relatives’homes, and homes that have been certified by the certified fosterfamily agencies (Desourdis, 2009). More often than not, relatives arethe first ones given preference to take care of the children morethan any other placements.

Apart from the relatives, the foster care provider ensures thechildren are placed in homes licensed by the CDSS, foster familyagencies, and county licensing bureaus. Other services includestatewide training, which is given to foster homes through county andcommunity training institutes. These sponsored training programs arealso services offered to ensure the environment is supportive enoughfor the well-being of the children (Desourdis, 2009). Teens agedbetween 16 and 18 are also offered independent services and livingtraining, to ensure career and job development are given to themafter coming out of foster homes to guarantee their independentliving.

Schoech, in his journal article “Interoperability and the Future ofHuman Services”, advices that the world is entering aninteroperability period in human services or better known as theautomatic linking of information globally across differentorganizations and services. The journal article emphasizes on helpingprofessionals in human services to focus on research, management,policy, and practice in the future system delivery where information,data, and knowledge can easily be changed electronically and usedworldwide. Review of the reading reveal that the interoperabilitypractice component refers to the use of linked data during decisionmaking (Schoech, 2010). Here, three different models, which hasdiffering global, interoperable, human service infrastructuredelivery, and impact felt in practice, are contrasted and detailedwith some of the factors that are considered in social work.

Interoperability has three models: Foundational, structural, andsematic. Foundational interoperability allows the data exchange fromone system of information technology to be received by anotherinformation technology system. However, it does not need the abilityfrom the IT system to be received in order to interpret the data.Structural interoperability on the other hand, is an intermediatemodel, which defines the format or structure of data exchange(Desourdis, 2009). It is where there is health data universalmovement from one IT system to another, in which the operationalpurpose or clinical and data meaning remains unaltered and preserved.The model defines the data exchange syntax. It guarantees that thedata exchange from the IT system would be interpreted well at thedata field level.

The third model, sematic interoperability, offers interoperability atthe top most level. It is the ability of more than one element orsystems to exchange the information received and to use the exchangedinformation. This model takes advantage of the two data exchangestructuring and data codification, which include vocabulary to ensurethe receiving IT systems can easily interpret data (Schoech, 2010).This model level supports electronic exchange of summarizedinformation of the patient among the care providers and otherauthorized individuals.

Interoperability models can be integrated into the organization typeby exchanging data through a hit System, whereby the recipientability of the system would find it easy to alter the data for easyinterpretation. Advantages of this model is that it builds betterinterpretation of data, which makes it easy for health providers toaccess full information of the patient, which is located in securestorage systems (Desourdis, 2009). Again, the model guarantees easyexchange of data from one system to another, which encourages littleeffort in interpretation of data. Its disadvantages revolve aroundthe inability to interpret data differently and thus allow massinterpretations. Errors in medical treatment could occur when certainstandards it advocates are not followed.

Structural interoperability on the other hand, is advantageousbecause it facilitates quick construction of IT systems, which helpsthe medical providers to diagnose and reduce medical errors duringtreatment. Its disadvantages are as a result of incompatibleterminologies during structural construction of the system (Schoech,2010). The incompatibility prevents access to medical standardizationduring treatment, and in turn would lead to accidents. Finally,Semantic interoperability is advantageous because it provides highlevel integration and transferability of healthcare systems, which inturn generate the require data to be transferred (Schoech, 2010).This is beneficial because the integrated information is transformedinto data needed for communication by health providers. However, someof its disadvantages include preclusion of software, whichfacilitates translation of data to the interoperable system from thelegacy systems.

In case there is failure in technology, a backup plan for each of thethree models should be formulated and implemented. First, all thethree models irrespective of their differences, would need to bebacked up by a business impact analysis. The analysis involvesidentification of all the systems and applications and thendetermining the impact it would have on the patients and delivery ofhealth. Next is to mark possible failure pints, and then addresstheir vulnerabilities. A backup plan should also involve the use ofHIPAA covered entity, especially in Semantic interoperability, whichis a contingency that ensured equal access to health information datain case the system fails (Desourdis, 2009). Finally, Virtual hardwareis brought in to assist in conditioning of data machines, which makesit easy retrieval of information.


Desourdis, R. I. (2009). Achieving interoperability in critical ITand communication systems. Boston: Artech House.

Schoech, D. (2010). Interoperability and the future of humanservices. Journal of Technology in Human Services, 28, 1, 7-22.