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In pursuit of EMR and image interoperability at HIMSS

February 22, 2017
By Tom Watson and Cris Bennett, clinical analysts, MD Buyline

Interoperability is a huge buzz word at HIMSS17, and although the concept touches many different areas of the health care IT spectrum, what does it mean for the EMR?

EMR entry into the clinical area is far from complete, and continues to expand and integrate into the daily workflow throughout the health care ecosystem. According to discussions with a number of prominent vendors at HIMSS, one of the common themes is a greater integration of imaging data into the EMR. This goes beyond just providing a link to a radiographic image or video. It includes imaging of all kinds, including endoscopic images, laboratory images, ophthalmology images, dermatology images among others.

X-ray-based images that are generated by the hundreds of thousands in hospitals, as well as imaging centers, primary care, and specialty physician offices, make up the largest sector of images in a patient’s medical journey. These images might come from surgery, infection control, ED and trauma areas, to name a few.

We need to make sure that patient records and images across all of the “-ologies” are available on demand. Picture Archive and Communications Systems (PACS) and Enterprise Imaging (EI) vendors across this space have made large strides to make this happen, but still face challenges in interoperability with every piece of equipment in the radiology space.

Tom Watson
Interoperability has improved with the use of a vendor-neutral archive and integration engines to route the patient’s imaging across the health care landscape. To a degree, these integration engines are beginning to create a seamless flow of imaging files across the network to multiple work stations. They are growing, and will eventually appear on point-of-care devices, which will then allow the physician and/or radiologist to make better informed and more meaningful decisions at the point of care.

The associated reporting and data that go with the images are becoming key as well. The goal is a comprehensive record of every patient’s history, test results, diagnoses, treatment regimens, and medication history, along with images, data and reports.

There continues to be work in both the EMR camp as well as the imaging camp to move toward this common goal. Imaging solutions still have a number of silos within their sector that need to be further consolidated into a single database or centralized storage with associated quantitative and standardized report structures. Many image solutions have not yet fully embraced the need to create not only an image repository for non-radiographic images (lab, ophthalmology, surgery, etc.) but also to combine that with the clinically necessary quantitative and diagnostic tools required for each respective specialty.

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