The ABCs of healthcare IT (a vocab sheet)

Posted January 11, 2021
By Miona Short

2020 was stunning…in the most ironic sense of the word. A side effect of the pandemic is that all eyes are on the healthcare and healthcare IT sectors. VC funding increased. Healthcare organizations adopted technologies at an unprecedented pace. Further, digital health companies responded with massive creativity to tackle a monster we’ve never seen before. There’s a lot of opportunity brewing here. But as in all historically bureaucratic industries, there’s also a LOT of red tape. Part of that paradigm is all the fundamental healthcare terms and health tech acronyms that are central to engaging the digital health space.

All of this can be dizzying so we’ve compiled a glossary of the most important healthcare IT terminology.

A

ACO Accountable Care Organization

ADT Admission, Discharge, and Transfer. In a hospital operations setting, this term refers to activities related to patients’ admission into the hospital, updates to their location, how / when / where they get discharged to, as well as other general patient coordination considerations. In integration terms, ADT refers to the HL7 message type encompassing all of the messages triggered by ADT activities, as well as activities triggered by account activity (e.g., deleting an account), patient ID changes, changes to patient demographics or next of kin, allergy updates, and much more.

API Application Programming Interface. An API is a tool used by software systems to define a simple method of interacting with that system.

API Key A code passed by a system interacting with an API to identify itself

AS2 Applicability Statement 2. A file transfer protocol specification used to transport data over a secure point to point connection. Mostly known as a B2B messaging protocol.

AWS Amazon Web Services

AZ Availability Zone, a failure-isolated chunk of an AWS region. For example, us-east-1a or us-east-1b

B

BAA Business Associates Agreement. This is a document used to contractually agree to be accountable to the security of data house within your application. We get BAAs with any third party tool (think Google, AWS, and Zendesk) to ensure they are treating data in a HIPAA-compliant way

Banyan A service running on our Rancher and VPN boxes that encrypts traffic between the two.

BI Business Intelligence

C

CAC Cost of Acquisition

Cattle Low-level Docker orchestration solution used in Rancher

CCR Continuity of Care Record. A base set of clinical concepts representing an electronic summary of health. It’s also an old XML standard which hasn’t been used since Meaningful Use 1. CCD is a mapping of the CCR dataset into the CDA architecture.

CCD Continuity of Care Document. A type of CDA document that summarizes an episode of care, typically a high-level “patient summary” where the episode corresponds to the patient’s entire chart, but can also be used to summarize a single visit. It can also be used to summarize a longer episode such as an entire pregnancy or a specific date range. But patient- and visit-summaries are the most common. The latest version of CCD is defined in the C-CDA template collection.

CDA Clinical Document Architecture. An XML standard created by HL7 for representing clinical documents.

C-CDA Consolidated-Clinical Document Architecture. A collection of templates defining how to represent most clinical concepts in CDA. As of MU2, most systems can exchange version C-CDA version 1.1 documents. Version 2.1 is intended to be backwards-compatible and is required by MU3.CDSClinical Decision Support.

CMS The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services – administer those services, but also oversees many programs including those focused on quality standards (Meaningful Use, PQRS, CDS) directly impacting EHRs.

Container Usually a reference to a Docker container, which is a well-defined environment that a program runs in.

CPACS Cardiology-specific Picture Archiving and Communications System

CTMS Clinical Trial Management System

D

DFT An HL7v2 message format for charges

DI Device Integration. Refers to the process of connecting devices used at the bedside (such as heart rate monitors, blood glucose readers, and pulse oximeters) to the EHR. Most commonly used in a hospital setting.
DICOM DICOM® (Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine) is the international standard to transmit, store, retrieve, print, process, and display medical imaging and related data.

DMS Document Management System. Often referred to as Document Imaging, this is a tool for storing images of documents, often ones scanned from paper. DMSs can also often be used for data conversion and storing data from external sources, such as PDFs produced by external systems.

Docker Tool for running programs in defined, self-contained environments called containers

E

ED Emergency Department

EDC Electronic Data Capture. May refer to an Electronic Data Capture system

EDI Electronic Data Interchange. Refers to teams focused on integration. In the industry, EDI will often refer specifically to the Claims team handling X12 transactions.

EETS End-to-End Testing Service. Lives in Google Cloud Platform (GCP) and acts as both a Source and a Destination to exercise various I/O functionality of the system regularly.

EHR Electronic Health Record. The database of medical information containing a patient’s complete account their medical history to that health system’s knowledge.

ELB Elastic Load Balancer. An ELB is a tool to manage the incoming traffic of a site across its infrastructure to more gracefully handle the impact of user activity

EMPI Enterprise Master Patient Index.

EMR Electronic Medical Record. The database of medical information containing a patient’s complete account their medical history to that health system’s knowledge. The

Episode Several encounters grouped together to take advantage of specific functionality (typically in a hospital setting)

ETL Data conversion method used in the context of data warehouses. Stands for Extract, Transfer, Load (although it’s actually more complicated than that)

F

FHIR Fast Health Interoperability Resources. This is the latest standard developed by the HL7 organization and is designed to work more gracefully with web application, using web protocols. Looking for a detailed rundown? Check out our What is FHIR? video.

FIFO First-In, First-Out: in message queues, this means that the order in which a group of messages are received is the order in which they will be processed. The first message into the queue will be the first message out of it at the other end.

FTP File Transfer Protocol. The traditional, unsecured form of SFTP.

G

GL Go Live

GPO Group Purchasing Organization

H

HA High availability, generally meaning that some parts of the system can fail without impacting users. In an AWS context, it means that your application keeps running even if you lose an availability zone. Also a response to a joke.

HB Hospital billing

HCO Health Care Organization

HER An auto-corrected abbreviation for Electronic Health Record

HHS The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

HIE Electronic Health Information Exchange. Allows healthcare organizations and healthcare professionals to access and securely share a patient’s vital medical information. Can refer to the act of exchanging the data or the organization responsible for the exchange of data.

HIM Hospital Information Management. This is the name of the department responsible for tracking how data is kept private, shared with appropriate parties (e.g., releasing information upon request), maintaining the MPI, and other functions supporting the integrity and quality of the health system’s data.

HIPAA Health Insurance Portability and Privacy Act. A bill passed in 1996 intended to make it easier for people to keep health insurance, protect the confidentiality and security of healthcare information and help the healthcare industry control administrative costs.

HISP Health Information Service Provider. This is an accredited role that provides certificates and authorization for Direct exchange.

HITECH Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act of 2009 to promote the adoption and meaningful use of health information technology. This created financial incentives for demonstrating “meaningful use” of EHRs.

HL7 Health Level 7 is a standards-developing organization, but in vernacular HL7 often refers specifically to the message format standard used for communicating health information between systems. HL7 version 2 (HL7v2.x) is the most common format health systems use when communicating with Redox and can be recognized by its use of symbols |^&~/. Version 3 (HL7v3) is XML-formatted and is most commonly seen in association with CDA messages.

H&P History and Physical

HPI History of Present Illness

HTTP HyperText Transfer Protocol

HTTPS HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure. HTTP with SSL/TLS added.

I

IDDA Independently Deployable Destination Adapters. API adapters built using a consistent framework that IEs can write or configure themselves without a development request.

I14Y Abbreviation for “interoperability”, with the “14” replacing fourteen letters between I and Y. I14YaaS is Interoperability as a Service.

IHE Integration of Healthcare Enterprise. An organization promoting the use of standards for an initiative to improve how healthcare software systems share information.

Inpatient Referring to patients in the hospital setting Inpatients are typically patients residing in beds. Inpatient applications cater to the needs of these patients.

ISC Inter-Service Communication (library) used by our microservices to communicate with each other via queues.

ISV Independent Software Vendor, the industry term for the type of companies that develop software for specific use cases, and are many of Redox’s customers, though most would not use this term to describe themselves.

J

JSON JavaScript Object Notation, the data format standard used commonly in web-based development.

K

L

Land and Expand Sales methodology to work with an ISV on their first HCO connection (land) and then grow that integration solution to other HCOs (expand).

LIS Lab Information System

Logentries Application replacing Papertrail for log management

LTV Lifetime Value

M

MAR Medication Administration Record. This is a chart used to track a patient’s medication consumption. Nurses document in the MAR when they give the patient their medication, and how the patient handled it (swallow, refuse, regurgitate, etc).

MDM An HL7v2 message format for communicating notes or media. MDM-formatted messages can contain plain text, marked up text (e.g., RTF or HTML), or encoded multimedia such as PDFs, images, or sound files.

MLLP Minimal Lower Layer Protocol. A communications protocol used in HL7 message delivery.

MVP Minimal Viable Scope. The minimal integration scope that will still provide value to the integrating parties. The MVP can be synonymous with “phase 1”.

mNDA Mutual Non-Disclosure Agreement

MRN Medical Record Number

MDP More Distribution Please is Athena’s initiative to promote healthcare interoperability by providing publicly available API and ad hoc sandboxes for third party application vendors.

MU Meaningful Use. A government program for certifying EHR systems and requiring that health systems implement technology.

Modality This term can reference two specific things in the world of diagnostic imaging. It may refer to a specific machine (MRI machine 123) or a category of machines (for example: CT, X-Ray, MRI, Ultrasound)

N

NAK A network protocol indicating a negative acknowledgement. It says “There was something wrong with that message.” Pronounced “nack.”

NCPDP National Council for prescription Drug Programs. The council created standards to improve communication within the pharmacy industry. Also used to refer to the acronym used for an XML-based standard messages type utilized by SureScripts and the rest of the pharmacy community.

NDA Non-Disclosure Agreement. A contract between an organization and either a person or an organization agreeing to certain confidentiality constraints. Often necessary to have in place prior to discussing things that are confidential or proprietary in nature.

O

ODBC (Open Database Connectivity) ODBC or Open Database Connectivity is an integration method that involves connecting directly to a database.

ONC The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, overseeing the administration of national health IT laws

ORU An HL7v2 message type representing result data (e.g., lab, radiology). Capable of supporting discrete data or textual notes information.

Outpatient Refers to patients not bedded in a hospital. May refer specifically to patients seen in hospital outpatient departments, or may refer to patients seen at stand-alone clinics as well.

P

PACS Picture Archiving and Communications System

Pathology Anatomical Pathology. A medical specialty focused on investigating tissue removed from the body. Pathology results are stored in clinical laboratory system and interfaced using lab interfaces (typically ORUs).

PB Professional Billing

PDQ Patient Demographics Query. An HL7v3 standard that is not widely adopted within the healthcare community

PR Pull Request. A code change awaiting review before being merged into the master branch. See also Github’s About pull requests.

PRN Shorthand for orders prescribed “as needed” from the Latin phrase pro re nata.

PubSub A method of communication between services based on the Publish-Subscribe pattern: a publisher sends messages with topics, and subscribers can choose which topics they listen to messages from. Also the name of our internal library (used by the ISC) for establishing this kind of communication.

R

Rancher Docker container management system used to orchestrate our application containers

ROI In a healthcare/HIM context, a Release of Information. In a financial context, Return on Investment.

ROS Review of Systems

S

SAML Security Assertion Markup Language. An XML-based markup language and open standard for authentication and authorization for data exchange between two parties. Primarily used within the SSO data model.

SDR Sales Development Representative

SFTP Secure File Transfer Protocol. Represents a data exchange method where files are placed in a predefined location on the source system’s server and picked up at predetermined intervals by the destination.

SIU An HL7v2 scheduling message type used to communicate new, rescheduled, updated, and canceled appointments.

SMB Small to Midsize Business

SMTP Simple Mail Transfer Protocol. Communication push (application layer) protocol used for electronic mail transmission.

SNF Skilled Nursing Facility- if a patient is ready for discharge from an acute care facility, but requires monitoring and support prior to going home, the SNF or LTAC facility can provide care for these patients over an extended period of time.

SSO Single Sign On.

T

TCP Transmission Control Protocol. A networking protocol used to send data between two disparate system.

Transcription The method of capturing documentation from verbal dictation. Providers will record the notes they want associated with a visit or order, and a transcriptionist will transcribe the content to text (sometimes assisted by voice recognition). Transcriptions are often transmitted to the EHR using HL7 MDM-type messages.

U

USCDI US Core Data Interoperability – The USCDI is a standardized set of health data classes and constituent data elements fornationwide, interoperable health information exchange

V

VPN Virtual Private Network. Creates a secure pathway between two entities to exchange data securely and privately. Required for transmission of real-time HL7 messages.

W

Waterline An Object-Relational Mapper (ORM) library used by our source code to make in-memory representations of database tables, so that data reading and writing is easier. 

Webhook Event-based triggers sent over HTTP to notify one system of something that’s occurred in another system. In a traditional API, an application initiates all communication with the API service. Webhooks are the opposite – the API initiates connections with the application.

Websocket A protocol providing full-duplex communication channels over a single TCP connection.

X

X12 Message format standard used in medical environments when communicating information related to billing, claims, registration and eligibility information, supply chain management, and much more.

XCA Cross Community Access. Supports the means to query and retrieve patient relevant medical data held by other communities.

XCPD Cross Community Patient Discovery. SOAP based technology that locates communities which hold relevant patient health data and the translation of patient identifiers across communities holding the same patient data. This can map to PatientSearch.

XDR Cross-enterprise Document Reliability Exchange. SOAP based technology aimed at providing a reliable and automatic transfer of documents and metadata for one patient between EHR systems even in the absence of XDS infrastructure.

XDS Cross-enterprise Document Sharing

XML Extensible Markup Language. Often used for documents such as CCDs

Y

YAMLYet Another Markup Language. A very simple human-readable annotation format that can be used to store data. Pronounced “yamel.”

PS–(You might wanna save this page and check in on it every so often because we’ll be adding to it over time!)