IHE is having a worldwide impact

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The worldwide initiatives of the Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise (IHE) and the evolving adoption of IHE integration capabilities internationally were topics discussed during a speech delivered by Nikolaus Wirsz, PhD, manager IT standards, Siemens Medical Solutions, at the 2006 RSNA show on Tuesday.

“IHE is like a cookbook, an implementer’s guideline,” Wirsz told audience members. National and international profiles developed by IHE are intended to improve the state of system interoperability. For many nations, IHE guidelines will facilitate the implementation of nation-wide initiatives, such as electronic healthcare records (EHR) that expedite and improve the delivery of patient care.

The speech, ‘The IHE Initiative Worldwide: An Update,’ took place in RSNA’s Informatics Classroom, which is part of the Lakeside Learning Center.

RSNA and HIMSS (Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society) conceptualized the IHE initiative in 1998. “In 1999, IHE started with a public demonstration at RSNA,” said Wirsz. “But IHE is not only about radiology. It is also applicable in clinical areas such as cardiology laboratory, patient care coordination, pathology, radiation oncology and pharmacy.”

IHE participation is growing. “In 1999 we had 20 vendors with 47 systems and in 2006 we have 60 vendors and 120 systems,” Wirtz said.

In addition, IHE does not only focus on the integration of systems within a single clinical organization. Regional Health Information Organizations (RHIOs) are popping up everywhere so that multiple healthcare organizations can securely send and receive electronic data across national networks ( http://www.himss.org/ASP/topics_rhio.asp). Images and information can be transmitted across multiple systems within a hospital, as well as can be shared by doctors and referring physicians outside the boundaries of a clinical organization.

“IHE is not a local problem; we are seeing integration problems everywhere,” Wirsz said. “As a result, IHE has been promoted worldwide.” Since 2000, IHE-Europe and its several national affiliates have been active under the sponsorship of ECR/EAR (European Congress of Radiology/European Association of Radiology) and COCIR (European Coordination Committee of the Radiological, Electromedical and Healthcare IT Industry). IHE-J began its activities in Japan under the sponsorship of JIRA and affiliated organizations.

IHE continues to gain more national affiliates in Asia (China, Korea, Taiwan), in Europe (France, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, Scandinavian countries, Spain, U.K.) and in North America (Canada).

Dr. David Koff of Sunnybrook Health Science Center in Toronto spoke to audience members regarding what IHE is doing in Canada. “IHE Canada was born three years ago,” Koff said. “The goal is to have an interoperable EHR in place across 50 percent of Canada by the end of 2009. Canada Health Infoway is responsible for fostering the development and adoption of EHR in Canada. Infoway is currently working with public sector partners on projects in various target program areas to make this possible. Widespread IHE adoption will to allow multi-system interoperability. Information needs to be transmitted between hospitals as well as referring clinicians.  Compliance to IHE profiles are now required in most of the RFP’s for PACS issued in the country.”

The speech also touched upon IHE initiatives taking place and evolving in Taiwan, Japan and Europe. Additional information on IHE’s worldwide initiatives can be found at www.ihe.net