The Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) and the Health care Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) have united their forces to set up a new initiative to stimulate the integration of the different information systems, imaging resources and other software components for health care. Both partners intend to sponsor the organisation of a series of public demonstrations that will provide a showcase for the increasing connectivity between health information systems. A team of experts, ranging from providers and equipment manufacturers to standards developers and information specialists, will try to build a consensus on the capabilities to be supported and demonstrated at the RSNA and HIMSS annual meetings over the years to come.
"Integrating the Health care Enterprise" (IHE), thus has been entitled this new HIMSS/RSNA effort to try and converge clinical information and imaging systems as well as other software and services. Today, medical information is spread over a wide variety of electronic sources which complicates easy access to the required data for both patient and practitioner in order to make the best decision for treatment. To make sure that personal medical information can be retrieved when and where it is needed, the various repositories of information should be linked together. Simultaneously, integration might avoid time-consuming duplication of efforts as well as reduce the danger of misplacing or even losing data. An additional and cost-effective advantage lies in the reduction of time and manpower needed to move data from one place to another.
From another point of view, solid system integration guarantees a higher level of security in the protection of patient confidentiality. At present, the information in the paper system has to pass through far too many hands to reach the decision-makers. If information specialists succeed in linking patient information systems to create only one access point, it will be much easier to elaborate security measures like passwords and audit trails so that it will be possible to control authorised access and curtail unauthorised entries. Collaborative efforts will eventually provide standard solutions for the industry to be implemented. The experts from various fields of course will take benefit from the already existing standards, such as HL-7 and DICOM, which are currently used.
The promotion of the information-sharing potential of an overall system integration will start at the annual meetings of the RSNA in November 1998 and HIMSS in February 1999 and will be continued in subsequent years. The first attempt to achieve connectivity will happen in a very simple manner like, for instance, the linkage between a medical report and a medical image. In this way, the IHE initiative will provide a highly visible showcase and forum for demonstrating, year after year, an increasing number and variety of transactions, enabling both vendors and purchasers to reach an agreement on a common set of expectations and requirements. The RSNA Web site presents all further details on the IHE project and on how to participate.