Data Integration in the Brazilian Public Health System for Tuberculosis: Use of the Semantic Web to Establish Interoperability

JMIR Med Inform. 2020 Jul 6;8(7):e17176. doi: 10.2196/17176.


Background: Interoperability of health information systems is a challenge due to the heterogeneity of existing systems at both the technological and semantic levels of their data. The lack of existing data about interoperability disrupts intra-unit and inter-unit medical operations as well as creates challenges in conducting studies on existing data. The goal is to exchange data while providing the same meaning for data from different sources.

Objective: To find ways to solve this challenge, this research paper proposes an interoperability solution for the tuberculosis treatment and follow-up scenario in Brazil using Semantic Web technology supported by an ontology.

Methods: The entities of the ontology were allocated under the definitions of Basic Formal Ontology. Brazilian tuberculosis applications were tagged with entities from the resulting ontology.

Results: An interoperability layer was developed to retrieve data with the same meaning and in a structured way enabling semantic and functional interoperability.

Conclusions: Health professionals could use the data gathered from several data sources to enhance the effectiveness of their actions and decisions, as shown in a practical use case to integrate tuberculosis data in the State of São Paulo.

Keywords: electronic health records; health information systems; interoperability; ontology; semantic web; tuberculosis.