Siemens and Philips collaborate on new imaging standard

November 1, 1999

Siemens and Philips collaborate on new imaging standardCORBAmed service to enhance access to images and EPRsTwo formidable PACS competitors have joined forces to help advance a common cause: interoperability. In response to a request for

Siemens and Philips collaborate on new imaging standard

CORBAmed service to enhance access to images and EPRs

Two formidable PACS competitors have joined forces to help advance a common cause: interoperability. In response to a request for proposals issued by the Object Management Group, Siemens Medical Systems and Philips Medical Systems are jointly developing an open-architecture enhancement to the CORBAmed standard, called Clinical Image Access Service (CIAS). The resulting technology is expected to become available for general use in two years.

CORBAmed is a CORBA-based draft standard that addresses the interconnectivity and interoperability needs of healthcare information and imaging systems. CORBA (common object request broker architecture) is a Web-based software development tool that enables programmers to take a distributed-object approach to systems integration. CORBAmed is an evolving standard developed by the OMG, a software consortium comprising more than 800 vendors, developers, and users all focused on developing distributed computer systems.

“This effort will expand on open interfacing and make information more broadly available by making the DICOM world accessible to the CORBA world,” said Fred Prior, director of integrated clinical solutions for Philips North America in Shelton, CT. “CIAS will provide a language and platform-independent means for clinical information systems to access clinical images for integration with reports, labs, and other clinical data in the electronic patient record.”

CIAS is not intended to replace DICOM or other systems-integration standards such as HL7, XML, or the healthcare standard currently being promoted by Microsoft. Rather, it is one of several CORBAmed services designed to complement these standards by addressing specific application needs within various hospital departments and across the enterprise.

CIAS, the first of these services to undergo formal development, is intended primarily to simplify clinical image data retrieval from nondiagnostic workstations, according to Prior. Combined with the CORBAmed Clinical Observations Access Service (COAS), CIAS will make more detailed image-related access services such as image scaling and windowing available to users outside the radiology department, regardless of hardware platform or workstation capabilities.

“CIAS will provide a simplified view of the DICOM information model that is compatible with better known image standards and standard office equipment,” said Rik Primo, director of IS/PACS at Siemens in Iselin, NJ. “It will enable more detailed access to images to meet the needs of general clinicians for nondiagnostic viewing of medical images.”

In addition to paving the way for more seamless integration of healthcare information and clinical imaging systems, the standard is expected to help boost investment in electronic patient record systems and other integrated information technologies. Using CORBA, which is an open-architecture development tool, provides complete device independence between the image source and its destination, Primo said. The display device does not have to conform to the file format of the image; instead, a lower resolution version of high-resolution images is provided in a format that is readable on standard computing systems as well as diagnostic workstations.

“CIAS will allow vendors outside the medical imaging domain to have different options for dealing with images,” Prior said. “Some can be in the DICOM format, but in other cases, they will utilize CIAS and CORBA interface methods that are more compatible with their architecture.”

An early prototype of CIAS called the CORBA Image Interface was first demonstrated by Philips as part of an EPR system at last year’s RSNA meeting and this year’s HIMSS meeting. When the OMG issued the RFP earlier this year for CIAS, Philips and Siemens recognized the opportunity to take that prototype and turn it into a nonproprietary solution that would enhance connectivity and promote the healthcare information technology market.

This is not the first time Philips and Siemens have collaborated on standards development. In the mid-1980s, they jointly developed a file format called SPI (standard product interconnect) that made it possible for optical disks written with images on a Siemens MR system to be read on a Philips system. Both companies have also been involved in the DICOM 3.0 development effort and in the IHE initiative.

In fact, both Primo and Prior note that CIAS is not intended to compete with or replace DICOM, HL7, or other parallel standardization efforts, nor is it being done outside the IHE. The goal is to bring all these standards together under the IHE umbrella and make them available to a wide variety of vendors according to their specific product and application needs.

“We are interested in taking away all the hurdles that would slow down healthcare providers in investing in information technologies,” Primo said.