The keys to managing data standards and image interoperability

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Many of us in healthcare find ourselves at an interesting crossroads…We know we need to bring a higher level of interoperability to our medical imaging processes, but we also know – or are at least beginning to realize – that it will take time, effort and money to do the job right and to do it well. 

The fact is, image-enabling an electronic health record (EHR) is not simple. While customers may want and expect a simple solution – “Can’t we just put an image viewer in the EHR and be done with it?” – the reality is that image interoperability is far more complicated.
Firstly, there are no uniform standards that govern the image ordering process. Secondly, multiple vendors produce imaging technologies for every modality, and each vendor supports the DICOM standard in its own way, so there’s no uniformity with regard to DICOM tags and how they are used. Some specialties and their respective modalities, moreover, don’t even produce DICOM-compliant images (e.g., dermatology and ophthalmology). And finally, there is also the fact that most facilities remain a hodge-podge of old and new technologies that aren’t easily integrated with one another.
Even though Meaningful Use 2 (MU2) has crystalized healthcare data interoperability, providers are just now beginning to dabble in image interoperability requirements. The future of healthcare will require more transparency in image sharing across the care continuum, creating a critical need to establish an enterprise-wide imaging strategy today.
Nevertheless, imaging interoperability can be done, and without having to break the bank and replace what you already have. The secret is to start smart and leverage your existing investments. Here are three keys to consider as you embark on your image interoperability journey:
  1. Know your clinical use cases. Who creates your data? How is it used? How is it viewed? Where does it need to go and will it be retrieved in the future? Are there other things the data can be used for? These are the types of questions you should be asking yourself, and more importantly, getting the answers to before diving headfirst into an enterprise imaging strategy and interoperability.
  2. Take the low-hanging fruit. Implement products that solve today’s problems and drive future solutions like Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise’s (IHE) Cross-Enterprise Document Sharing (XDS) profiles. Go for universal viewers that can run against multiple vendor PACS simultaneously and support multiple devices. Choose vendor- neutral archives (VNAs) that support multiple ology’s from multiple vendors while also acting as both an XDS repository and an XDS source.
  3. Don’t try to kill two birds with one stone. Image management vendors are good at managing images; document management vendors are good at managing documents and other types of content. By hiring one vendor to handle it all, you risk missing important workflow or clinical use cases. Choose a proven partnership that’s been around for more than five years and whose solutions have the freedom to grow, both in features and functions as well as in how it can be integrated into your EHR.
Setting an imaging interoperability strategy takes time, effort and money. But, if you keep these three keys in mind, you can help make the task much more manageable and truly prepare for the long term.
How are you preparing for your image interoperability journey? Do you have a strategy in place?
To learn more, visit us at booth #5551 during HIMSS 2014 in Orlando, FL, to learn how Merge Healthcare can help you establish advanced imaging networks for your interoperability needs. 

Originally posted on: 2/13/2014 1:37:16 PM

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