IHE Update: Bigger, Better Events, New Standards & Guides

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hiit040507.jpgIntegrating the Healthcare Enterprise (IHE) — the multi-year initiative creating a framework for passing important health information throughout a healthcare enterprise — is fast becoming a much-relied-upon mechanism for healthcare professionals in pursuit of interoperability. More vendors have been participating in IHE events, the organization has increased its output, including standards, supplements, and guides, and more professional associations are supporting IHE goals and initiatives. The activities in the first few months of 2006 alone are impressive.

Connectathon grows in participation, value

More IHE events are offered every year and ongoing annual events continue to grow. This year's 7th annual Connectathon included systems engineers from 59 leading healthcare information technology (HIT) companies from around the world. The event is designed to test the interoperability of HIT systems that acquire, manage and exchange patient data within care sites and across multiple-provider networks. The annual Connectathon has become an increasingly valuable part of product design and testing. Companies work in harmony to ensure that their systems can communicate with other systems according to specific data standards to support clinical care.

The number of participating companies increased this year by 20 percent, according to Joyce Sensmeier, MS, RN, BC, CPHIMS, FHIMSS, vice president of informatics for the Healthcare Information Management & Systems Society (HIMSS). HIMSS, the Radiology Society of North America (RSNA) and the American College of Cardiology (ACC) sponsor the event.

"The increase partly reflects growing awareness in the HIT industry," says Sensmeier. "The Connectathon's five days of face-to-face testing and debugging saves companies time and money by enabling them to perform work that would normally take months to accomplish in the field."

"The expanding scope of the IHE initiative is the other key factor in the Connectathon's growth," she adds. By the final day of testing, 140 systems from 59 participating companies had successfully completed testing. Cardiology systems were tested for the first time at the 2005 Connectathon. This year 33 systems tested five different profiles in the cardiology clinical domain, including new profiles supporting cardiology reports.

Organizers plan to expand into radiation oncology, eyecare, laboratory and patient care devices at future Connectathons. Meanwhile, an IHE-Europe Connectathon of comparable size was held in Barcelona in April. Additional events are planned this year for Japan, Korea and Taiwan.

Complete test results from 2006 and previous Connectathons in Europe and North America are available at www.ihe-europe.org/con_result.

Interoperability Showcase presented mock RHIO

Fifty-one (51) systems tested at the Connectathon were on display at the Interoperability Showcase at the 2006 Annual HIMSS Conference and Exhibition in February. Attendees could create their own virtual health record and then track them in a mock regional health information organization (RHIO). Various clinical scenarios demonstrated how existing information technology can exchange health data between the systems of various vendors.

Clinical scenarios were enabled by the standards-based IHE framework, demonstrating how different companies incorporate interoperability into their products. Attendees could see how health information is exchanged in electronic records, as well as lab results, images, medical summaries, and cardiology reports. This also showed how individuals can participate in their own healthcare management.

This year's Interoperability Showcase included 47 participating vendors, up from 32 in 2005.

Growth in cardiology

In March, the ACC became one of several cardiology organizations to showcase its support for IHE standards at its annual meeting. IHE offered its ACC 2006 IHE Demonstration which included details regarding the organization's 2006 Connectathon requirements and provided booth visitors with demonstrations they could take with them, along with new white papers and other resources ( www.ihe.net/resources/index.cfm).

The IHE does your connectivity work for you, says Teri Sippel Schmidt, technology project manager, IHE Cardiology. Cardiologists don't necessarily perform their work in the most efficient manner, she says, but she has noticed that most have little interest in IT systems and how they work. "They want it to just work," she says.

Guide to managing clinical