Incremental Interoperability

by Dr Nick

Incremental Interoperability


Imagine sports players on a team not sharing

Can you imagine a sports team that was unable to share? Sharing is Caring and can only be done with open and easy access that includes the clinical team, patients, and their family.

Translational Medicine Conference

I recently attended the innovative 8th Annual Translational Medicine Conference this past week in Derry/Londonderry Northern Ireland hosted by the Clinical Translational Research and Innovation Center (C-TRIC).

It was a great collection of insights in different areas of medicine looking for the ways to actionable research and insights into effective changes in healthcare practice. One of the most compelling aspects of this conference was the inclusion of the patient perspective in the form of a video interview with real patients talking about their experiences and perception of the healthcare system, personalized medicine and what they understand from these areas. It was gratifying to find the patient voice included at the conference and certainly the feedback I heard was very positive from the clinicians, researchers, and others.

Complex Case Management for Transplant Patients

But it was Dr. Conall O’Seaghdha’s presentation on Transplant 2.0: Using Mobile Health Technology to Improve Kidney Transplant Outcomes that offered some great incremental steps in facilitating the engagement of patients. Historically at the Beaumont hospital had a paper-based “Transplant Passport”. A physical document that transplant patients carried around with them filled with their key data and information from the time they went on the transplant list through transplantation and afterward.


Working with Patient mPower and with significant input from multiple groups but especially patient they developed Patient Buddy app that was founded on the principles of the “Transplant Passport” updated for the digital age. The Patient Buddy App won the design IMSTA MedTech Awards for eHealth, and had a focus on improving communication between the patient and case manager by helping manage the workload. You can find more details on the app here.

Transplant Patient Buddy App

It came with a range of features directed at easing the burden on transplant patients that included:

  • Clinical data tracking
  • Wireless blood pressure monitoring
  • Improving adherence and reducing medication errors
  • Enhancing the outpatient clinical encounter
  • Patient education and changing behaviors
  • Research


The data captured flows into the electronic medical record system used by the case managers who can see the data as it is uploaded by the patients.

But it was the simple interoperability approach centered on laboratory results that in hindsight seems so simple but offers interoperability for everyone.


QR Codes

The QR Code developed by the Car Manufacturing Industry

The “Quick Read” (yes that’s really what “QR” stands for) barcode is a standard developed by Denso-Wave (part of Toyota) for labeling vehicle parts during the manufacturing process. They have multiple uses and can contain lots of different types of data. Depending on the type of data and error correction levels used they can store up to 4,296 alphanumeric characters.




QR Code Interoperability

In the Patient buddy app in conjunction with the hospital systems, QR codes are printed with the paper report of blood results sent to the patient.

Importing Data from Medical Reports with QR Codes


If the digital transfer of data takes place through one of current standards that exist then there is no need to scan this result into the Patient Buddy app – but we are awash with reports of data blocking and challenges of sharing data between systems and I love the simplicity of printing a QR Code containing the data for that test and including a reader that allows this to be read and imported into the patient’s application

Incremental Improvements for Sharing of Patient Data


We are awash with data but so much of it remains locked away in the recesses of systems that are inaccessible to clinicians, patients, and their relatives. We have to liberate the data and provide easy access to patients who remain the party with the biggest vested interest in the successful outcome of any intervention from the healthcare system. Here are some incremental improvements we could apply to get us closer towards free-flowing data and total healthcare data interoperability


  • Offer multiple methods to share data between systems
  • Provide easy to use tools and methods to access and Share data to patients
  • Patient Data Encoded into QR Codes Printed on All Paper Reports
  • Patient’s Want to Help – Empower them With Access to their Data
  • If in Doubt – Augmented SneakerNet (paper-based) sharing works


Empower patients and clinicians with free-flowing data


Do you have any better suggestions for improving interoperability? What small change have you seen that makes a difference to speed up interoperability and sharing of data in healthcare? What one thing could we do that would have a big impact in this area? Let me know.

This blog was previously published on ICD10 Monitor



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