The Basics

A complex health care system requires diverse electronic health record (EHR) products. Interoperability refers to the architecture or standards that make it possible for diverse EHR systems to work compatibly in a true information network. The Office of Standards and Interoperability at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services coordinates efforts to facilitate interoperability and information exchange among Federal, State, regional, local, tribal, and private stakeholders.

Direct Project: A First Step Toward Interoperability

The Direct Project is creating a low-cost, practical mechanism for exchanging health information over the Internet. Direct makes it possible for providers to securely email information via their EHR to other trusted providers, such as specialists, pharmacies, and laboratories.

The Direct Project doesn't replace other ways of exchanging information electronically. It augments them. It does replace slow, inconvenient, expensive methods of exchange (such as paper and faxes), providing a path to more advanced interoperability.

Learn more about the Direct Project on

Your Local Regional Extension Center Can Help

Your local Regional Extension Center (REC) can help you navigate the vendor landscape and understand interoperability. RECs are located in every region of the country to help health care providers select, implement, and become adept and meaningful users of EHRs. Contact your local REC to find out if you are eligible for free or reduced-price local support.

For more information, see the EHR Interoperability section of