New SIIM Chair looks to further differentiate the society from radiology

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While the newly appointed SIIM Chair Bradley Erickson, MD, was tremendously positive about the recent conference held in Seattle last week, he spoke of future intentions to further separate the Society of Imaging Informatics in Medicine (SIIM) from distinct radiological societies.

In comparison to previous years, the “most novel thing at this conference were the learning labs,” which Erickson deemed as “very well-attended and very well-received.”

Erickson, from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., noted that the learning labs offered attendees a hands-on opportunity to get up close and personal with “a number of different programs.” The technologies included:

  • DVTK - different tools to assist in the development, testing and servicing of medical interfaces such as DICOM and HL7;
  • Nagios - a host and service monitor designed to alert a facility to network problems before clients, end-users or managers complain:
  • Wikis - a type of computer software that allows users to easily create, edit and link web pages; and
  • eXtensible Imaging Platform - a set of visual ‘drag and drop’ programming tools and associated libraries for the rapid development of imaging and visualization applications.

The small, classroom-style learning labs were limited to 24 people at a time, and were offered several times throughout the meeting.

He also noted that he was pleased with the new Open Source Plug-Fest, where evangelists for particular software package would advocate” for their open-source projects used in imaging informatics. These sessions were quite interactive, according to Erickson.
At the Plug-Fest, representatives from many open-source communities helped attendees understand and begin using powerful open source programs--from building a personal DICOM or HL7 server to system management tools to help maintain a smooth-running operation. Attendees were encouraged to bring their laptops, and the representatives trained them on programs, such as: ClearCanvas; dcm4che; Mirth; OsiriX; and XNAT.

In additions to those highlights, Erickson said that he “was most encouraged by attendance to scientific abstracts sessions, particularly ‘Vocabularies and Ontologies,’” to combat a current challenge within the imaging informatics field – understanding the information that radiologists produce in their reports.

He spoke to the difficulties of having a computer understand the text of varying radiologists. As a result, ontology-assisted analysis allows the radiologist to go back and data-mine for specific searches and diseases. Erickson believes that sessions like ‘Vocabularies and Ontologies,’ allows imaging informatics professionals and radiologists to recognize that it is “starting to happen and make good practice” of these techniques.

During the session, five lectures were presented:

  • Ontology-Assisted Analysis of Web Queries to Determine the Knowledge Radiologists Seek;
  • Variability of Subspecialty Search Queries Made Using a Radiology-specific Search Engine;
  • Natural Language Processing Can Accurately Identify and Classify Key Information in Free Text Radiological Reports;
  • The ImageCLEFmed Medical Image Retrieval Task Test Collection; and
  • What are Radiologists Looking For? The Demographics and Usage Statistics for a Novel Radiology-Centric Websearch Engine

Erickson concluded that one of the most positive aspects of this year’s conference, is that “we started to live up to our name as an imaging informatics-specific society, instead of just a radiological society.” For the first time, “we really are starting to look at differentiating ourselves from the strict radiological associations,” he said.

Erickson said that he would like SIIM to continue in this trend as the society looks toward SIIM 2009 in Charlotte, N.C.