Panel will integrate PACS into international standards

April 24, 1991

Integration of technical standards for picture archiving and communicationsystems with those for radiology and hospital information systemsis one step closer to reality. Representatives of U.S. organizations working to establishstandards for

Integration of technical standards for picture archiving and communicationsystems with those for radiology and hospital information systemsis one step closer to reality.

Representatives of U.S. organizations working to establishstandards for health-care informatics agreed to coordinate theirefforts through a single standards planning panel under the auspicesof the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).

This unification effort is propelled by the need to harmonizeU.S. medical standards with those under development by the EuropeanCommunity, said Robert Hindel, chairman of the MED-PACS sectionof the National Electrical Manufacturers Association.

The Comite Europeen de Normalization (CEN) is actively developinghealth-care informatics standards that will be binding for Europeanand international companies selling equipment in the EC. CEN ispursuing this standards effort in concert with the InternationalStandards Organization (ISO), Hindel said.

"There is nothing comparable (to the CEN effort) in theU.S.," he said. "The Europeans have sworn allegianceto the ISO, and will not deal with Americans unless the Americanorganizations are united in an organization that belongs to theISO, which ANSI does. U.S. activities in PACS and diagnostic imagingwill be at the level where we can officially communicate withthe Europeans."

American groups implementing health-care technical standardsmet with representatives of the Food and Drug Administration andCEN at a March 11 meeting of the Agency for Health Care Policyand Research. AHCPR is a unit of the Department of Health andHuman Services that was created 18 months ago, Hindel said.

The following standards organizations participated in the AHCPRmeeting:

  • NEMA:
  • the American College of Radiology;
  • the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers(IEEE);
  • the American Society for Testing of Material (ASTM);and
  • Health Level Seven (HL7), a group addressing the highestof seven technical levels under ISO standards.

It was agreed at the AHCPR meeting that a coordinating group,called the standards planning panel, should be formed within ANSI.The panel will be composed of representatives from the existingstandards organizations. It will not form standards itself, butwill ensure coherence among the member groups.

"It will be a fairly broad organization, exceeding byfar what ACR/NEMA has tried to do. (Forming the group) makes sense,because this whole area of medical informatics is unwieldy. Itis useful to have an overall organization to coordinate it,"Hindel said.

American health-care technical standards are voluntary, incontrast to the binding European regulations. Coordinating thesevoluntary efforts is not an easy task, he said.

For example, two groups were formed at the AHCPR meeting aroundthe issue of compatibility. One group believed there should bea single, unified standard, while the other called for severalcompatible standards. The draft plan for the ANSI health-carepanel compromised on the issue, calling for "nonredundantand nonconflicting standards," Hindel said.

Hindel is a 28-year medical imaging veteran. He recently retiredfrom Philips, where he served as manager of advanced planning.Hindel now operates as an independent medical imaging consultantin Orange, CT.