ACC meeting-goers get taste for IHE in 1st demonstration
Entering the domain of cardiology to address the challenges posed by the lack of system interoperability in the field, the Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise (IHE) Pavilion debuted at this week's American College of Cardiology Conference, March 6 - 8, in Orlando, Fla.
Meeting-goers visiting IHE's exhibit (in the several hundreds) experienced first-hand workflow in a cardiology department utilizing data-compatible equipment. System integration and seamless data distribution was depicted through clinical scenarios, such as an add-on echocardiography mobile procedure or an emergent angioplasty in the cardiac catheterization lab. The scenarios demonstrated how information can be seamlessly transmitted across multiple domains of a patient's cardiac care when various information systems are properly integrated, a.k.a. IHE-compliant.

IHE is a multiyear effort sponsored by the ACC, the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) and the Health Information Management System Society (HIMSS). The ACC began working with IHE last year to focus on the integration of information within the cardiology department.
The cardiology effort began with a planning and a technical workgroup identifying three specific clinical problems, called integration profiles. For year one, the profiles included: retrieval of electrocardiograms for display, echo workflow and cardiac cath workflow.

Once the mandatory technical specifications were developed for the profiles, Teri Sippel Schmidt, technical project manager for IHE cardiology, explained that 43 vendors brought 110 products and over 300 engineers to IHE's Chicago-based testing center for a week of inter-product testing in January. "It was mind boggling," she said. "There were more than 2,800 tests executed that were independently verified in one week."

After successfully integrating the technical specifications, the vendors brought their systems to ACC to show their level of interoperability. Some of the vendors participating in IHE Pavilion at ACC included Heartlab, IDX, Medcon, Philips, Agfa, Camtronics, Emageon, GE and Toshiba.

Why should end-users be aware which companies are IHE compliant. "End users must request IHE in their RFP documents and product selection," said Sippel Schmidt at a presentation on Monday at the ACC meeting. "You must ask for it loud and ask for it often."

Interoperable systems promise improved workflow, in addition to better patient care, reduced expenses, reduced medical errors and increased productivity. Compatibility between machines also plays a critical role in the government's push for nation-wide electronic medical records.

"More importantly," added Sippel Schmidt, "we are getting across the point that system integration is important to improve healthcare delivery."

Among the extensions in the works (but not yet confirmed) for year 2 are cath lab reporting, echocardiography reporting, stress testing reporting and cross-enterprise document sharing. Next year's demonstration is likely to include an ambulatory setting, such as the physician office. Further out, year 3 could include cath lab content, such as QCA/QVA, hemodynamic waveforms and hemodynamic measurement; nuclear medicine and the EP lab.

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