IHE committee takes its message around the globe

June 16, 2005

Integrating a profusion of digital healthcare information systems is central to providing efficient, high-quality healthcare, and this need spans national boundaries. To address the increasingly global task, the Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise initiative expanded to six new countries last year.

Integrating a profusion of digital healthcare information systems is central to providing efficient, high-quality healthcare, and this need spans national boundaries. To address the increasingly global task, the Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise initiative expanded to six new countries last year.

The IHE initiative has had an international vision from the beginning. It has encouraged the development of regional and national IHE initiatives to address specific healthcare needs driven by local considerations. Among these are language, policies, and reimbursement procedures, said Dr. David Koff, an assistant professor at Sunnybrook and Women's College Health Sciences Center in Toronto. Koff is a member of the Partnership for Health Information Standards' DICOM expert group.

The IHE's technical framework comprises both global and multinational localization frameworks. The initiative's planning and technical development committees drive the global framework, while working groups of regional and national initiatives impel specific national extensions, Koff said.

The IHE national chapters have connected with nearly 200 vendors worldwide, 60% of them outside of the U.S, according to IHE IT infrastructure technical committee cochair Charles Parisot, a member of IHE national committees in the U.S. and Europe.

The initiative first expanded into Europe in 2001, with France the first country to join. In 2002, it spread into Germany, Italy, and Japan, and it moved into the U.K.

in 2003. In 2004, the initiative made forays into Canada, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Korea, and Taiwan. Additional countries in the process of the joining the initiative include Spain and China.

"The various parts of the world share a significant number of integration problems that can be addressed with minimal variants despite vast differences in the way specific healthcare systems are organized," Parisot said.

In Japan, researchers applied a national extension of the U.S. scheduled workflow integration profile, referred to as IHE-J/SWF, to nuclear medicine imaging. The profile outlines the standard workflow of a general radiologic examination, and the researchers studied whether it could be applied to a nuclear medicine exam workflow.

Dr. Shigeo Matsudo and colleagues at the Saitama Medical Center compared the step-by-step workflows for nuclear medicine and CT exams. Matsudo presented the results of the study at the 2004 RSNA meeting.

Overall, the researchers found that the basic workflows for both exam types were identical, he said. The IHE-J/SWF integration profile was considered applicable to the nuclear medicine workflow.