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Cross-enterprise standard fosters imaging exchange

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The Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise initiative is intended to enable plug-and-play interoperability between clinical information systems from different vendors. Embraced by most major healthcare IT vendors, the IHE harnesses existing healthcare and IT standards such as DICOM and HL7 into integration profiles. The profiles amount to technical recipes for how standards must be implemented by vendors to ensure interoperability for specific tasks and problems faced by healthcare providers.

The Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise initiative is intended to enable plug-and-play interoperability between clinical information systems from different vendors. Embraced by most major healthcare IT vendors, the IHE harnesses existing healthcare and IT standards such as DICOM and HL7 into integration profiles. The profiles amount to technical recipes for how standards must be implemented by vendors to ensure interoperability for specific tasks and problems faced by healthcare providers.

Each year, competing vendors collaborate to develop new integration profiles, implement those profiles in new versions of their products, and convene annual connectathons to test the profiles and device interoperability.

The newest profile to undergo testing is the IHE's cross-enterprise document sharing for imaging (XDS-I) integration profile. At the 2006 IHE connectathon, vendors will demonstrate product compliance with XDS-I, which provides a set of components that can be combined to create a regional imaging data exchange on the basis of open standards. Any PACS that complies with these standards should be able, with minimal configuration, to hook into an XDS-I infrastructure and share and receive images and reports from participating sites in the region.

XDS-I is expected to add momentum to the creation of imaging exchange networks on regional and national scales. At the regional level, the Philadelphia Health Information Exchange will be the first implementation of XDS-I. At the national level, XDS-I figures prominently in the diagnostic imaging component of Canada's nationwide network, now in the early stages of development.

Additional information can be found at http://www.ihe.net. Hands-on demonstrations of IHE functionality, including XDS-I, will be featured at the annual RSNA and Healthcare Information Management and Systems Society meetings.-EDM

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