What is Interoperability?

Interoperability refers to the ability of two or more systems or components to exchange information and to use the information to make better decisions. The term is often used in a technical engineering sense and also in a broader sense, taking into account social, political, and organizational factors that impact performance.

Too many barriers stand in the way of clients getting the services they need. “Interoperability”—a national effort of technological and programmatic coordination—is poised to eliminate many of those barriers. Today, the emergence of “interoperable technology” offers an unprecedented opportunity to connect systems across traditional boundaries in exciting and rewarding ways. This interconnectivity represents the cutting edge for development of new service models and approaches to maximize positive outcomes for children, families and communities.


North Carolina Families Accessing Services Through Technology (NCFAST) – November 4, 2014

North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) uses the National Information Exchange Model (NIEM) to improve services to clients, and wins a 2014 “Best Of NIEM” Award.


The North Carolina Families Accessing Services Through Technology (NCFAST) Program introduces new technological tools and business processes that will enable the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services and the 100 county departments of social services to spend less time performing administrative tasks and more time assisting families.

The use of NIEM helped facilitate the design and implementation of services and message exchanges that are common to many HHS services in most states, so they can be reused. This provided other states with the opportunity to reuse and build upon a rich set of message exchanges and an architectural framework, enabling them to provide enhanced, effective, and efficient services to families.

ACF Confidentiality Toolkit - August 19, 2014

The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) developed this ACF Confidentiality Toolkit to help jurisdictions successfully navigate the delicate balance between privacy and security with the delivery of efficient and effective services. The ACF Confidentiality Toolkit analyzes, explains and aids states and local jurisdictions in the navigation of a number of federal laws that impact the implementation of human services. Embedded throughout are sample documents from across the country from which jurisdictions using the Toolkit can borrow freely.

Program Instruction ACF-OA-PI-13-01

ACF-OA-PI-13-01 describes the waiver process for the use of federal funding to acquire proprietary program-specific applications using Commercial Off-the-Shelf (COTS) software products in human services programs. 

State Systems Interoperability and Integration Project Grants - July 09, 2014

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Partnership Fund for Program Integrity Innovation provided the Department of Health and Human Services/Administration for Children and Families (HHS/ACF) funding for the State Systems Interoperability and Integration Projects (S2I2).  These planning grants funded 12-month-long projects in seven states to explore and plan improved interoperability and integration in eligibility and enrollment, case management, and other related functions to help streamline administration processes and strengthen program integrity in federal assistance programs across health and human services information technology systems. Grants were awarded to the states of California, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, New York, and Oklahoma.

  • California promoted the understanding of interoperability statewide and developed an integrated Governance Model

  • Colorado built a Client Information Sharing System that facilitates collaboration and data sharing across their Department of Human Services and six other domains.

  • Illinois developed a sustainable Governance Model for the Healthcare and Human Services Framework.

  • Indiana worked to automate and improve the state’s Vital Events Registry information, collection, and data sharing.

  • Maryland defined interoperability and its impact on client outcomes at the practice level “Life of the Case” Workflow Analysis Model, and Return on Investment Models and Calculator.

  • New York developed the Children’s Passport, an online reporting portal that captures data from multiple data sources.

  • Oklahoma built a roadmap that will help redesign the Eligibility and Enrollment system, integrate Service-Oriented Architecture, and expand the Enterprise Service Bus.

The Affordable Care Act and Child Support

A presentation for the 2013 NCSEA Policy Forum in Washington, DC on the opportunities available to states developing eligibility and enrollment systems under the Affordable Care Act exception to OMB cost-allocation requirements.

Advance Interoperability Initiative Resources

Guidance on Funding and Cost Allocation 

Resources related to cost allocation in health and human services systems.

Cost Allocation Toolkit

The Cost Allocation Methodology (CAM) Toolkit helps states determine equitable distributions of software development costs to federal and state benefiting programs over the system development lifecycle.

Interoperability Toolkit

A compendium of interoperability documents is designed to help state human services agencies connect with their health counterparts and maximize Affordable Care Act benefits.

National Human Services Interoperability Architecture (NHSIA)

The National Human Services Interoperability Architecture (NHSIA) proposes a framework to facilitate information sharing, improve service delivery, prevent fraud, and provide better outcomes for children and families. For further information, contact the ACF interoperability team at

National Information Exchange Model (NIEM)

NIEM—the National Information Exchange Model—is a community-driven, government-wide, standards-based approach to exchanging information. For more information, contact the ACF interoperability team at

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