IHE 2000-2001 marks another step toward compatibility

October 4, 2000

IHE 2000-2001 marks another step toward compatibilityIn early October, engineers from all over the world will gather for a "connectathon" in Chicago to prepare for the Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise (IHE) event at the upcoming RSNA

IHE 2000-2001 marks another step toward compatibility

In early October, engineers from all over the world will gather for a "connectathon" in Chicago to prepare for the Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise (IHE) event at the upcoming RSNA and HIMSS meetings. This will be the second year in the planned five-year-long series of demonstrations intended to show how imaging and information system standards (DICOM and HL7) can facilitate a seamlessly integrated imaging department.

There is no question that the IHE activity has fostered renewed interest in the importance of DICOM and HL7 and improved the integration of digital modalities, PACS, and information systems (HNN 5/3/00). This was possible because the IHE representatives have created a very comprehensive technical specification as a roadmap for their integration and demonstration effort.

When systems with different standards are integrated, overlap occurs as well as gaps, making such models critical. In the case of IHE, data elements were mapped, use cases and scenarios specified, and the impact on transactions identified. For example, there is no longer any question that an imaging service request for a diagnostic procedure, identified by an accession number, can result in multiple procedures, potentially in multiple modalities, resulting in multiple reports.

The IHE committee has emphasized that it is not developing a new standard. Rather, the committee picked a subset of the two existing standards. Thus, when gaps appear, the committee requests changes from the HL7 and DICOM committees to accommodate these gaps. As it turns out, only a few minor changes have had to be made in the existing standard subset.

IHE year two will add new scenarios, such as "unscheduled procedures," and standard additions such as DICOM structured reporting, image display, and print consistency to the demonstrations. These additions follow the trend that has succeeded basic image and information exchange, expanding into image and information management and dealing with the consistent presentation of the images.

Again, the importance of the IHE activity cannot be overestimated. Rather than trying to solve problems at customer sites, it is more effective to troubleshoot in advance during the initial "connectathon" and on the show floor during the RSNA and HIMSS meetings. Participation also speeds up the implementation of new additions to the standard.

Several vendors involved in the IHE demonstrations will be exchanging structured reports, which only became part of the DICOM standard six months ago. These same vendors will then ship products that reflect this experience and related implementations next year. IHE participants also will have access to many examples and test files, not only for the structured reports but also for testing and verifying the soft-copy consistency implementations.

Comments/questions: Herman Oosterwijk at herman@otechimg.com

For more information on the IHEspecifications, please go to the following Web site: http://www.rsna.org/IHE