Frequently Asked Question

Definition of the types of data models
Last Updated a year ago

A data model is an abstract model that organizes data elements within an information system and standardizes how they relate to one another and to the properties of real-world entities (the objects that really exist in the world). The main aim of data models is to support the development of information systems by providing the definition and format of the data.

When speaking about the structuring of EHR data, one needs to make the distinction between three types of data models and understand how they relate to each other:

  • The operational data model: This is the data model - how your data is structured in tables and the relationships between those tables - inside your local EHR. It uses a local "grammar" (structure) and vocabulary (value sets/dictionaries for each data field). It was usually created and fitted over time according to local needs and experiences. It is (generally) not standardized (but might be) and the data captured in it cannot be used "as is" by others outside your institution (unless they share the same model/standard for example because they have the same EHR provider and have implemented their EHR instance similarly).
  • The logical data model for data exchange: This is the "common language" allowing healthcare data interoperability. It defines a reference grammar (structure) and vocabulary (value sets) to which the local operational data models must be mapped to allow the content locally created in an EHR to be exchanged outside the institution in which those data have been captured. This data model is narrower than the full EHR data model as it concerns itself only with the data that need to be exchanged with others outside of the institution, not the data specific only to the internal institution needs (ex. daily individual staff clocking-in and clocking-out data). It is independent of the standard chosen for the actual data exchange. In Belgium this corresponds to the Care sets Data models and value sets.
  • The operational data model for data exchange: This is the technical implementation of the logical data model for data exchange, that allows for the automatic validation of the to be exchanged data, according to the chosen standard (ex: CDA, FHIR, ...). In Belgium this corresponds to the (operational) FHIR-BE profiles which are aligned to the Care Sets logical (theoretical, abstract) data models.

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