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Geneva, 3 December 2012– The Forum on Health Data Standardization and Interoperability, organized by the World Health Organization (WHO), will be held 3-4 December in Geneva, Switzerland.

"Interoperability has been recognized as essential to achieving the full potential of information and communication technologies (ICTs) and medical devices in support of health systems as part of the overall socioeconomic development of countries," said the director of Knowledge Management and Sharing at WHO, Najeeb Al-shorbaji.

The term 'interoperability' refers to communication between different technologies and software applications for the efficient, accurate, and sound sharing and use of data. This requires the use of standards− that is, rules, regulations, guidelines, or definitions with technical specification to make the integrated management of health systems viable at all levels.1

The Organization is working in collaboration with technical programs and member states to advance the appropriate use of ICTs to deliver quality of health services, reduce costs, and achieve universal health coverage. Transmitting personal or population data across ICT-driven health information systems requires adherence to health data standards and related technology standards for secure, accurate and timely exchange of data for healthcare decisions.

Lack of data interoperability within and between systems developed by technical programs or member states not only hinders care delivery, waste resources and leads to fragmentation of health information systems, but at times can also cause fatalities. "Implementing health data standards to achieve interoperability requires collective action by the Organization and its member states," said Al-shorbaji. "We have to face the challenge that many countries lack the capacity to participate in standards development and their implementation."

Participants invited to this forum include representatives from health data Standards Development Organizations, Member States, academic and research institutions, implementing partners, donor community, and subject matter experts concerned with development, adoption, and implementation of health data standards at national and sub-national level. WHO technical programs and regional offices, such as the Pan American Health Organization, will also be participating in the forum.

This activity responds to objective 3.2 of the Strategy and Plan of Action on eHealth for the Americas, which seeks to “promote the standardized interoperability of health systems”.



1. World Health Organization. Atlas eHealth Country Profiles: Based on the findings of the second global survey on eHealth. (Global Observatory for eHealth Series, 1). Geneva: World Health Organization; 2010.

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