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Integration, in the context of information technology, is the ability for multiple subsystems to form a larger functional system. In an integrated system, many subsystems are patched together to create a much larger system that's primary function is to improve communication between these subsystems and to create a more comprehensive database (What is integration?, 2015
). In order for these subsystems to integrate properly, each one should ideally use the same or similar data formats in their respective systems. Often to achieve integration a company must assimilate new hardware and software and adjust their existing information and application architecture into a more tailored and customized system.
Integration is paramount in the future of information systems. When a subsystem is integrated into a larger system, they are enabled to share data with other subsystems when needed as well as request information from other subsystems. Integration streamlines communication and information requests, saving time for the users of the systems. This is extremely useful in providing services on a mass scale (such as healthcare), planning and managing projects, and really any other tasks that require collaboration from multiple parties often separated by a distance. Integration will also improve reliability and quality of the system because it will be a combination of independent specialized subsystems that are up-to-date on technology and information and often the data will be available in real-time (Lowe, 2014). The tricky part of integrating systems is that when the volume of the subsystems increases it becomes more difficult to assimilate various data types into an information system. To confront this challenge, there are efforts by many organizations and individuals to decide upon the most ideal data entry formats and techniques in order to create universal data standards for optimal integration potential.
In the context of health information technology (HIT), integration is an imperative concept that many are pushing for. One organization, Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), aims to build and endorse a universal interoperable electronic health records (EHRs) (Oh, 2015). These EHRs would be able to be accessed through an integrated electronic health system by physicians, clinicians, hospitals, insurance companies, and other healthcare providers and stakeholders in various locations across America. One of the best ways to foster interoperability and system integration is to impose data standards during data input. Such data standards allow for a quicker data transfer and more sufficient data all around by establishing common terminologies and a more structured information model for data as well as improving privacy and security. One great example of these data standards in EHR systems that is commonly used across the board is the Logical Observations, Identifiers, Names, and Codes (LOINC) standard. LOINC is used for the electronic exchange of lab results between hospitals, clinicians, payers and any other stakeholder. A code for serum sodium in the database would appear as 2951-2 (Oh, 2015), saving time and space in the data transfer; the end user would reference the code in a LOINC index.
In a study conducted in which a fully integrated online system directed towards the testing of, treatment of, and access to healthcare for sexually transmitted infections, the results indicated that integrated health information systems have the potential to increase the diagnosis and treatment of these infections, as well as increase patient satisfaction and save money (Researchers from Johns Hopkins..., 2015). By allowing a patient to access community resources, contact physicians, view personal health data and lab results, schedule appointments and use other health information system resources, their healthcare is streamlined and it saves everyone's time.
HL7, XML, LOINC, ICD-9, CVX, SNOMED, HTTP, FTP
Lowe, R. (2014). 10 Reasons Why System Integration is Important.PROCESS India, 1(6), 14-16.
Oh, S. (2015, September 10). Data Standards and Medical Coding. Lecture presented in LSB 0006, Florida State University, Tallahassee.
Researchers from Johns Hopkins University Describe Findings in Public Health (Fully Integrated e-Services for Prevention, Diagnosis, and Treatment of Sexually Transmitted Infections: Results of a 4-County Study in California). (2015, February 5). Women's Health Weekly, 255. Retrieved from
What is integration? - Definition from WhatIs.com. (n.d.). Retrieved October 29, 2015, from
this is an integrated system in the context of retail business operations,
this graphic illustrates an integrated system with databases, chats, emails, system resources, and more,
this graphic shows integration within the context of health information technology; users can communicate with entities represented by the blue circles outside the red line, and each entity is involved in activities represented by the grey circles,
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