Ay … yi, yi, FYI

February 21, 2005

I’m having trouble staying afloat in radiology’s alphabet soup.

I'm having trouble staying afloat in radiology's alphabet soup.

The annual HIMSS (Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society) conference in Dallas has injected an almost incomprehensible stream of acronyms into my wordscape. While I have seen them all before, there is something about having them all hurtling at me at the same time that is mind numbing.

Let's look at all those EHRs (electronic health records) being developed at RHIOs (regional health information organizations). How do the people using them know the EHRs aren't really EMRs (electronic medical records)?

Apparently, it doesn't matter because the RHIOs are way too busy serving as P2P (peer-to-peer) brokers. These P2Ps act as switches - to what I'm not sure. If a light suddenly goes on, I'll let you know.

All this is part of the IHE (Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise) initiative, which we've been talking up ever since PACS (pictorial archiving and communications systems) were found to be causing a lot of confusion. PACS ran into a lot of this trouble, apparently, because they weren't properly integrated with RIS (radiology information systems). That was solved at last year's RSNA (Radiological Society of North America) meeting when all the PACS companies launched their RIS/PACS suites. I'll hear more about them in the coming weeks and months at the ECR (European Congress of Radiology), and at conferences held by the ISMRM (International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine) and SNM (Society of Nuclear Medicine.)

Most of these IT (information technology) systems have 3D (three-dimensional) imaging now that MR (magnetic resonance) and CT (computed tomography) are pumping out huge quantities of data. Some people still call it CAT (computed axial tomography), but I guess the hardcore wanted to get rid of the allusion to animals. PET (positron emission tomography) is pretty much stuck.

Slice pollution is CT's problem, although PET will have that problem and more when the most advanced forms of CT are hooked into PET/CTs. What's pushing MR is the increasing power of its gradients, measured in mT/m (milliTesla per meter), and faster slew rates measured in mT/m/sec(milliTesla per meter per second).

FFDM (full-field digital mammography) is just making things worse with its 30-MB (megabyte) files, which are making vendors develop data archives in the TB (terabyte) and PB (petabyte) range.

I don't think all these abbreviations are necessary. I think we've become a community of acronym junkies for whom words are no longer sufficient. We wander aimlessly, searching for our next fix, each new one arising from ever more mundane environments.

Just this week I read about DICs (diagnostic imaging centers) and how this market is rapidly expanding.