IHE's effects on PACS implementation

AuntMinnie.com: What impact will IHE have on PACS implementation, and how soon will it be felt?

Caren Mason, eMed: The concepts that IHE are developing will have an impact as they help to improve data integrity within the system and, thereby, reduce system administration. IHE also helps improve tracking of operations and, thereby, increase revenue through improved accuracy of billing and decrease costs through better operational management. RIS and PACS vendors have already, and will continue to implement the concepts of IHE. However, vendors will implement these concepts in nonstandard ways.

Vishal Wanchoo, GE: IHE is really taking PACS to the next step, improving PACS workflow for customers and vendors. It’s just a normal evolution of PACS functionality.

However, there’s a huge installed base that will not be IHE compliant, primarily due to the legacy imaging modalities out there. When you have a 10-year-old modality, it’s not going to be IHE-compliant, forcing the mixing and matching of IHE- and non-IHE-compliant equipment. Ten years from now it will not be an issue, but for now, it’s not the panacea that we want it to be. But it’s certainly a step in the right direction.

Gary Larson, Kodak: IHE is definitely beginning to sensitize both PACS and IS vendors as to the need for integrated enterprise workflow solutions. The ultimate success of this initiative is still hard to predict, but could be impacted by the degree that the IT companies become more heavily involved.

Richard Hullihen, Marconi: We’re already feeling an impact from IHE, and already seeing IHE-interfaced systems in the market. The Department of Veterans Affairs is leading part of that in its procurement activities, for which they’re requiring in some cases these kinds of functionality and interoperability.

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This will be an ongoing process. It’s taken the market a fair amount of time even to fully digest the notion of what DICOM conformance is, and the industry continues to learn in real-time. Standards conformance is insufficient to guarantee interoperability, and so efforts such as IHE -- where information systems and imaging systems come together to try to better define the framework for interoperability -- is absolutely critical to the next wave of deploying these technologies.

Milan diPierro, Philips: IHE is one of a number of efforts to standardize the way medical devices communicate and operate with respect to one another. DICOM, CORBA, HTML, XML, SQL, and various Microsoft standards (SAPI, COM, DCOM, etc.) all play a role in improving the clinical functionality of a hospital’s system of medical devices (i.e. modalities, information systems, output devices, etc.).

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With the increased focus on interoperability and integration, PACS implementations will continue to be most successful when all the parties involved (vendors, various hospital departments, etc.) share a clear understanding of each other’s roles and responsibilities.

It is also becoming more and more important for the PACS vendor to have a full suite of professional services including workflow analysis and process re-engineering, network infrastructure analysis and design, interoperability testing and analysis, project management, PACS clinical education, flexible financing programs, and technology refresh service.

Rik Primo, Siemens: IHE is providing a technical framework to integrate HIS/RIS/PACS, based on open platforms and industry standards. Further, IHE is providing a white space in which vendors can test inter-operability, before facing "plug and pray" issues at the customer site. This goes way beyond pure "connectivity."

As a result, we will see better-quality integration (read seamless) between RIS/HIS/PACS, with more easily maintained vendor-specific implementations that don't use proprietary code to achieve the integration goals. Interface boxes will become a thing of the past. This can be seen already today.

Next page: The impact of new technologies on PACS

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