Interoperability is harder than Worcestershire

By Rien Wertheim – An interesting thread on Reddit revealed the most difficult words to pronounce in the English language. High ranking were ‘rural’, ‘sixth’, ‘choir’  and, the number one most difficult word, ‘Worcestershire’.

The contributors to that thread are clearly not in our field, or they would have chosen ‘interoperability’ as their favorite. Gosh, how I had to practice before I got that tongue-twister under the belt.

After you mastered the pronunciation, the next hurdle is explaining what it is exactly, when asked at a party.

“So, what do you do for a living?”

“I am in healthcare interoperability.”

“Interopera-what? What on earth is that?”

Just as the meaning of interoperability starts to dawn on your interlocutor, three beers later, the next problem arises.

“Why is it so difficult to have computers in healthcare communicate? They have been doing that for ages in banking, logistics, retail, automotive and I don’t know what.”

Obviously, trying to explain why interoperability is so hard in healthcare would bore people to death, so you just skip that and continue with the good news. Now we have FHIR to put an end to the communication misery.

“Fire? You mean, burn it all down?”

“No, actually you spell it F, H, I, R. It stands for Fast Health Interoperability Resources.”

(The other way around happens just as often, by definition. People having read about FHIR talk about ‘fer’ or ‘fir’ or even ‘fear’).

“Wow! That is a mouth full of fancy words. You sure this fire thing is going to solve all problems?”

“Yeah. Absolutely…”

So you start explaining why FHIR is different than its predecessors, explaining about REST and JSON and Atom and how all this is going to enable a technological shift, et cetera, et cetera…

And then you find yourself drinking alone in a darkened corner, wondering what business you are in.


  1. Peter Jordan on said:

    As someone who works in healthcare interoperability from an address in Worcester Drive (yes…really), I had to laugh at this post! Maybe it’s someone’s way of telling me not to speak to strangers at parties any more.

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