DICOM committee has a full plate in 1999 DICOM UPDATE

February 1, 1999

DICOM committee has a full plate in 1999The DICOM committee is sure to have a busy year. Several new extensions to the DICOM standard are scheduled to be worked on and released during 1999.Some of the proposals, such as a new MRI object definition

DICOM committee has a full plate in 1999

The DICOM committee is sure to have a busy year. Several new extensions to the DICOM standard are scheduled to be worked on and released during 1999.

Some of the proposals, such as a new MRI object definition and the extension of ultrasound to include 3-D visualization, are improvements and extensions of existing services. Other parts will cover new territory such as waveforms, which will allow standardization of EKGs. In addition, supplements that have been frozen for the purpose of trial implementations will likely be standardized, with visible light modalities such as endoscopy, microscopy, and pathology falling into this category.

In new developments, a DICOM security proposal will be added soon, although there is some confusion about what the committee will standardize. The proposed rule from the Department of Health and Human Services regarding security and electronic signatures created a lot of momentum and perhaps even anxiety around the subject of security (PNN 10/98). This HHS rule contains proposals for audit trails, authentication, and other security mechanisms.

DICOM is a communication standard, however, and will not yet be able to provide a standard for these applications. At this point, the DICOM security proposal includes only a mechanism to provide a secure communication channel, allowing the information to be encrypted in a similar manner as banks perform financial transactions over the Internet. With the Internet increasingly being used for image transmission, this will be an important addition to DICOM. The use of an electronic signature to provide data integrity, another HHS requirement, will be added to the DICOM standard in a later phase.

In the archiving realm, cardiologists are anxiously awaiting the incorporation of a DVD standard into DICOM to enable storage of a single run of 1024 cardiac images on one disk. This task is performed today with a CD, which can store only 512 images. Since the storage industry has not agreed on a write format for DVD, the DICOM standard for now will likely define only the read format for DVD.

For a vendor that wants to implement the standard based on just its documentation, it is hard to determine which part of the standard and which features to implement. To simplify the standard, create a better chance for interconnectivity, and also potentially save resources, the DICOM committee is considering retiring several portions and/or features of the standard.

Another area that the user community will appreciate is the specification of guidelines for conformance statements. The requirement for conformance statements is one of the major advantages of DICOM, but comparison of statements between two devices can be difficult. The level of detail of these specifications varies greatly by vendor, and typically there is not enough information. New guidelines will be proposed for writing conformance statements, including the addition of a single page executive overview that can be used to quickly determine basic conformance.

--By Herman Oosterwijk, president, OTech Inc. (herman@otechimg.com)