Interoperability: The IHE Connectathon and beyond

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What is interoperability?
In the age of mobility, interoperability is paramount to patient care. Virtually everyone has a smart phone, and information and people are constantly on the move.

Interoperability is defined as "the ability of health information systems to work together within and across organizational boundaries in order to advance the effective delivery of healthcare for individuals and communities."1 To ensure systems interact with one another at the highest level, interoperability standards are essential. With this in mind, Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise (IHE) has established such standards, including DICOM, HL7 and XDS, to improve the ways in which healthcare information is shared.

Dedication to Interoperability Standards
Merge has been committed to supporting interoperability standards since IHE's inception, serving as one of the creators and early adopters of the DICOM standard. Over the years, Merge has continued to contribute to the development of such standards, including the successful profile testing of Clinical Decision Support (CDS) in last year's IHE North American Connectathon and participating in the encounters-based workflow proposal in XDS.

Earlier this year, January 23-27, Merge once again took part in the IHE Connectathon, which brought together vendors to formally test integration of their products. Merge's enterprise viewer, iConnect® Access, passed all 43 test instances between more than 20 vendors and systems at the Connectathon, an accomplishment we are very proud to report.

iConnect Access relies on interoperability standards to simultaneously federate numerous data sources to retrieve all of the patient's history in a concatenated list in order to make the most informed care decisions. With this technology, clinicians have the ability to review all images performed at their facilities and neighboring facilities in one longitudinal list. The benefits of having this holistic view of the patient's medical history are profound, and in some cases, can mean the difference between life and death.

Setting the Stage for Interoperability at HIMSS17
At HIMSS17, Merge continued to demonstrate its commitment to interoperability standards by participating in the HIMSS Interoperability Showcase™, which included a subset of the IHE Connectathon participants. The Interoperability Showcase gave conference attendees the opportunity to securely access, contribute to, and analyze their own health data between vendor solutions in different use cases.

iConnect Access was used as the viewer in the Surgery and Recovery use case with a hip replacement workflow. Through integration with other vendor solutions, iConnect Access federated queries for patient identities and retrieved all of the available content for a complete imaging history. Viewing the complete longitudinal patient record with current and prior x-ray and MRI studies enabled the care team to properly treat the patient post-surgery. Yet another powerful example of the importance – and impact – of interoperability in healthcare.

While participating in IHE Connectathons and similar interoperability events helps to demonstrate Merge's ability to collaborate and integrate with other vendors, our real success can be witnessed every day in doctors' offices, hospitals and health centers. By embracing interoperability standards, we are playing a crucial role in improving efficiencies in medical imaging, which opens the door to quicker diagnoses, more timely treatment, and ultimately, better patient care. 

Originally posted on: 3/27/2017 10:47:02 AM

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