Standards facilitate the construction of complex systems from components. The road to widespread implementation of a standard is a long and arduous one. First, an organization must create a standard. Then the community at large must agree on the standard, after which companies must incorporate the standard into their new products or new versions of their products.6 Finally, customers must either implement de novo the new products or upgrade their existing systems.
As healthcare organizations increasingly communicate patient data as part of regional health information organizations that in turn are part of the larger national health information infrastructure, the source of much biosurveillance data—hospitals, physician's offices, clinical laboratories, and diagnostic imaging centers—will increasingly implement standards, facilitating the construction of biosurveillance systems that use those data.
In addition, biosurveillance systems must also adopt the same standards, enabling them to communicate with other biosurveillance systems as well as computers operated by myriad organizations.
In the next chapter we discuss architecture, which is not a standard per se, but is also an important determinant of your ability to add or modify components in a growing biosurveillance system. Architecture resembles standards from the perspective of facilitating construction of complex systems.
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