IHE committees present technical document

IHE committees present technical documentDemonstrations set for future RSNA, HIMSS meetings The Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise (IHE) initiative, sponsored by the RSNA and the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society,

IHE committees present technical document

Demonstrations set for future RSNA, HIMSS meetings

The Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise (IHE) initiative, sponsored by the RSNA and the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society, is gaining momentum (PNN 2/99). At February's HIMSS meeting in Atlanta, IHE committee members released an evolving technical framework document and a detailed time schedule that will lead up to demonstrations of interconnectivity at this year's RSNA meeting and again at the HIMSS meeting in 2000 (PNN 2/99). Both the framework document and the time schedule are available on the Internet (www.rsna.org/ihe).

Important milestones in the project this year include the June 1 deadline for applications to participate in the demonstration project, and a "Connect-a-Thon" on Sept. 13-17, when vendors who hope to take part in the demonstration must show their ability to connect to other vendors.

As expected, the first-year demonstrations will be limited in scope and focused on radiology. Among the problems to be addressed in the first round is the inability of most hospital and radiology information systems to communicate patient scheduling information to a PACS, said Dr. Gilbert Jost, chairman of the RSNA's electronic communications committee.

Typically, demographic information is entered into the hospital or radiology information system when the patient arrives, but all too often, that information must be reentered in the PACS when the patient undergoes an imaging exam. These individual records may never be linked, Jost said.

Adoption of a common protocol for modality scheduling would allow the PACS to pick up the demographic information already entered in the hospital or radiology information system, Jost said. The problem has been solved on a case-by-case basis by some vendors, but has to be addressed every time they encounter a new system.

All of this, of course, assumes that the IHE project gathers the level of support from the clinical community that it needs to move information system integration forward. The broad concept of integrating healthcare data is agreed upon in principle, and from the perspective of politics and efficiency, it makes sense. It is particularly important to the radiology department: With PACS purchasing in the future likely to be funded largely by healthcare IT budgets, radiology has a vested interest in fostering the integration of images and information.

"If radiologists want money to fund the development of PACS, they are going to have to look at PACS for the healthcare enterprise, not just PACS for radiology," said James Mulvaney, director of product marketing for Dynamic Healthcare Technologies of Lake Mary, FL.

What's not clear, however, is whether information systems managers have made integration of PACS into the healthcare enterprise a high priority. A number of PACS vendors who exhibited at the HIMSS meeting complained about a lack of interest on the part of information systems managers (see story, page 1). Perhaps just as telling, one PACS workshop at the meeting had a sign referring to the technology as "PACKS."

Technology Marketing Group president John Vanden Brink said he has found information system managers generally defensive and confused about PACS. Getting them to a point where they appreciate the value of an integrated system with PACS is going to take a considerable educational effort, he said.

Another problem is the situation faced by smaller vendors, many of whom stand to benefit from a more integrated information system but who don't have the resources to staff both an exhibit booth at the RSNA meeting and a separate demonstration.

Jost acknowledged the problem, but said the dramatic impact of a separate demonstration at the InfoRad section of the RSNA meeting was considered important during the first year. In the future, however, it may be possible for vendors to participate in demonstrations directly from the exhibit floor.

"If people are opposed, we want to hear from them and try to work through our differences," Jost said. "At the moment, the movement is enthusiastic. What we're hearing is enthusiastic support, not dissension."