In health IT, we are talking about interoperability all the time. What does it mean to be entirely interoperable? At a high level, all healthcare systems must work together seamlessly. While we are years from this end goal, processes are currently underway that are helping to connect disparate parts.
This issue is front and center in the radiology field right now. Just this past month, Radiology Today published an article discussing the changing relationships between RIS, PACS & EMRs, and the shift towards RIS/EMRs. Like many before, they have come to the conclusion that PACS are becoming extremely outdated because of their lack of usefulness outside the reading room presenting extra hurdles to integration. In this article all RIS options are debated and ultimately a call to action is made for tools that facilitate collaboration and interoperability across systems. But, there is no easy answer, because what is needed to make an effective system depends entirely on what a specific organization may require. What Paul J. Chang, MD, the vice chair of radiology informatics at the University of Chicago Medical Center suggests, is that radiology departments and organizations shouldn’t limit themselves, and should keep trying new methods in the process of creating an integrated system.
In the case of imaging and radiology, to move towards greater interoperability requires making DICOM a communicable language. As David Mendelson, MD, a radiology professor at Mt. Sinai Hospital explains, “DICOM is fundamental to what we do – it makes everything work in radiology, but it’s not something other physicians understand, and we need to be able to communicate to the rest of providers and to patients in ways that go beyond DICOM”. This is our main goal at DICOM Grid, making imaging systems accessible and easy to use for all physicians and patients alike. In order to make DICOM fully integrated, this goal must also be shared across all providers.
In order for interoperability to be successful in all parts of healthcare, all aspects must work together. In radiology these changes are being considered and debated, preparing practitioners for inevitable change. What changes are you starting to see at your organization?