RSNA, HIMSS join forces to sponsor systems integration

RSNA, HIMSS join forces to sponsor systems integrationSocieties look to improve connectivity between PACS and HISIn an effort to speed up the consolidation of integrated image and information management systems, the Radiological Society

RSNA, HIMSS join forces to sponsor systems integration

Societies look to improve connectivity between PACS and HIS

In an effort to speed up the consolidation of integrated image and information management systems, the Radiological Society of North America and the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society are spearheading a project to improve the connectivity between PACS and other healthcare information systems.

The initiative, called Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise, will consist of a series of demonstrations at the RSNA and HIMSS meetings designed to show the integration of PACS and other healthcare information and management systems. The societies also hope to highlight the ways the integration will benefit patients and healthcare providers.

"We believe it will stimulate the industry by providing a public showcase for certain levels of connectivity and integration among information systems components," said Dr. Robert Greenes, a professor of radiology at Harvard University and a member of the RSNA's Electronic Communications committee.

An IHE group is being formed, with members expected to consist of healthcare providers, information and management systems specialists, standards development groups, and equipment vendor specialists. The team of experts will then develop the technical specifications and capabilities to be supported in a demonstration project that will be phased in over several years.

Initial demonstrations will take place at the 1998 RSNA meeting in November and the February 1999 HIMSS show, with additional exhibits set to take place in subsequent years. The project is not designed, however, to develop a new standard. Instead, the group will look at ways to take advantage of widely used standards such as DICOM and HL-7, according to the societies.

The RSNA will likely adopt an approach similar to the one it took in promoting the DICOM standard. Although nothing is final yet, one method being discussed is to place the demonstration space in the RSNA's infoRad area. The same exhibit could then be moved to the HIMSS meeting.

With PACS technology finally seen in force at the recent HIMSS meeting (see story, page 2), the timing seems right for such a project. For its part, the RSNA is hoping that IHE will replicate the rapid adoption of the DICOM standard, which has made integration of PACS networks possible and has sparked widespread market acceptance of the technology. The society's potential selection of infoRad as the demonstration area may also be made to take advantage of its success at demonstrating the benefits of digital image management.

It will be interesting to see, however, what response the initiative receives from both PACS and HIS vendors. Exhibiting costs have increased recently at the RSNA meeting, and with more PACS vendors showcasing their wares at the HIMSS show this year, trade show budgets have already swelled. As a result, the IHE project may prove to be a strain on the resources of PACS vendors, according to some industry analysts. HIS vendors, on the other hand, while ramping up their involvement at the RSNA meeting, may also balk at additional exhibiting requirements for a trade show at which they have historically maintained a low profile.

While they expect participation costs to be minimal for vendors, the societies are looking at ways to keep company expenses down. Although no decisions have yet been made, one potential approach could be to make publicly available a common set of software tools to facilitate connectivity to the demonstration, Greenes said. Other methods are also under discussion.