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Radiol Manage. 2004 May-Jun;26(3):16-24; quiz 25-7.

HIS/RIS/PACS integration: getting to the gold standard.

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Akin Gump Health Strategies, LLC, USA.


The technology for acquiring, storing, retrieving, displaying, and distributing images has advanced dramatically in recent years. The push is toward enterprise-wide image management solutions, where digital images from radiology, cardiology, and other "ologies" are seamlessly linked with information from clinical information systems and other databases, and they are accessed seamlessly from a single point of end-user interaction. The "gold standard" of system integration would provide the platform for improved workflow, patient throughput and patient safety, as well as decreased cost. Unfortunately, the gold standard remains elusive in most healthcare environments, even those with new systems. One of the earliest issues that plagued the progress of hospital information system/radiology information systems/picture archiving and communication systems (HIS/RIS/PACS) integration was a matter of language between Health Level-7 (HL7) and DICOM. This barrier was solved by the broker--a software and hardware device that accepts HL7 messages from the RIS then translates, or maps, the data to produce DICOM messages for transmission to the PACS. Technologist workflow requires patient and exam information from the RIS to flow to the modality. The broker provides support for this by taking advantage of the DICOM Modality Worklist (DMWL). Two primary problems are inherent in most brokered configurations. Workflow is driven by paper, and RIS information flows in 1 direction only, which leads to duplicative databases. Overcoming the limitations of HIS/RIS/PACS connectivity requires industry accepted communication protocols/rules. To facilitate this, the Integrating the Health Care Enterprise (IHE) initiative was developed. The goal of IHE is to provide end-users improved access to critical patient and clinical information across all systems within the healthcare delivery network. While the IHE initiative began to facilitate more efficient, predictable, and functional integration between disparate systems, vendors still had technology hurdles to overcome. System integration continues to be significantly hampered, not by technology limitations, but instead by business and political issues. In response to these challenges, several vendors have begun to offer consolidated RIS/PACS solutions and/or HIS/RIS/PACS solutions. Consequently, the prospect of the gold standard appears to be on the horizon. Single vendor consolidated systems are not, however, feasible for deployment in many healthcare organizations, and they are not necessarily the panacea.

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